New Delhi: The Chilean Police is training sniffer dogs to detect the presence of the novel coronavirus in people’s sweat, reported Reuters Saturday. The move comes as Chile looks to reopen schools and colleges and workplaces.
As of 1 August, Chile has reported 3,55,667 Covid-19 cases and 9,457 deaths and is the eighth-worst affected country in the pandemic.
The UK and Germany have also conducted studies that show canines are able to sniff out the presence of coronavirus in people.
94 per cent success rate in German study
In Chile’s Santiago, a group of four Labradors and Golden Retrievers are being trained at a special camp. Sporting bio-detector jackets, these dogs will be deployed at busy places including schools, bus stops and airports.
“(Dogs) could detect people at an early stage of the disease to be able to isolate them and perform the appropriate PCR test, avoiding mass contagions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Cristian Acevedo Yanez, director of the police specialty training school, to Reuters. He added that with more than 50 times the olfactory responses of humans, dogs could play a critical role in detecting the virus.
Over in the UK, a government-funded trial is underway, with scientists from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University training six dogs to distinguish positive samples from negative ones.
“The study is moving forward very well and the signs are all really positive,” said Dr Guest, one of the doctors training the dogs, to the BBC. The dogs will be trained to smell the virus on sterilised clothing and masks worn by NHS workers.
In Germany, eight dogs from the country’s armed forces had a 94 per cent success rate in detecting Covid-19 from the saliva of 1,000 people.
“We think that this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient are completely changed,” said Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the veterinary university conducting the training. “We think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell,” she added.
Dogs can detect some diseases, but India not convinced
While dogs are commonly used for sniffing out explosives at airports, they have also been found to be able to detect diseases like Parkinson’s, malaria and cancer, reported Reuters.
According to Medical Detection Dogs, the complex structure of a dog’s nose contains 300 million receptors compared to 5 million in humans, which heightens their sense of smell. Research by Medical Detection Dogs shows dogs can be trained to detect disease odours.
Experts that ThePrint spoke to in India, however, said that studies are at too early a stage to say anything conclusively.
“Dogs have been found to detect chronic diseases like cancer. But these are all in the stage of clinical trials. The assumption is that the dogs’ olfactory nerves are strong enough to detect the disease, but whether it conclusively works or not, is too early to comment on,” said Dr Preeti Kumar, Public Health Foundation of India.
“There is no evidence yet to suggest that there is a chemical reaction through breath or bodily secretions that can be detected by dogs,” said Dr Sanjeev Kumar of the Indian Public Health Association.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.