The UK government is testing to see whether trained airport sniffer dogs could detect the coronavirus on air travellers. Picture: Helena Lopes/Pexels.
The UK government is testing to see whether trained airport sniffer dogs could detect the coronavirus on air travellers. Picture: Helena Lopes/Pexels.

Could sniffer dogs detect coronavirus at airports?

By Travel Reporter Time of article published May 20, 2020

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A UK trial is testing to see whether trained airport sniffer dogs could detect Covid-19. Sniffer dogs are known to detect illicit items like drugs and weapons, so this could be revolutionary should the trial go as planned.

The UK government has invested £500 000 (about R11.2-million) towards the research. CNN reported that researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with charity Medical Detection Dogs and the UK's Durham University, believe that respiratory diseases change body odour. 

Due to this, the researchers believe sniffer dogs could help suss out travellers who could be carriers of the coronavirus. Six dogs, including labradors or cocker spaniels, have gone into the preliminary trial. 

“The Super Six”, the name given to these trial dogs, could screen up to 250 people per hour. 

Professor James Logan, the lead researcher on the project, and head of the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told CNN: "It builds up on years of research that we've already done as a team to demonstrate that people who have a malaria infection have a distinctive body odour and we've shown that dogs can be trained to detect that with very high accuracy.” (sic). 

The team will collect human odour samples from those who tested positive and for those who are not infected by the virus. The people will wear face masks or nylon socks, which will be given to the dogs to detect the scents.  According to the publication, researchers said that if successful, it could have many benefits for the travel industry, including no need for quarantines for air travellers.

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