Thu. Jan 20th, 2022


Schools, hospitals and businesses in Britain are considering using Covid sniffer dogs as a new way to detect the virus along with more conventional testing methods.

A British study published by an academic consortium in May this year, found that dogs have a better record of picking up the presence of Covid-19 in humans than lateral flow tests, with a level of accuracy not far behind “gold standard” PCR tests do not.

Interest from organizations across the country in whether specially trained dogs can be deployed to track Covid at entrances to nightclubs, bars, conferences, schools, hospitals and airports has increased.

Amazon Studios, the American production and distribution company, recently used trained dogs to screen more than 200 actors and team on the London recording of a feature film.

In the autumn, the British government held talks with the consortium on the use of Covid sniffer dogs at the COP26 climate summit to check on thousands of daily visitors to the Glasgow event.

In the end, ministers decided not to proceed due to concerns about potential “cultural sensitivity” towards the animals among the delegates from about 200 countries.

Other countries have also tested Covid sniffer dogs. Last year Helsinki airport drove a pilot, while more recently the police in Dubai trained 38 sniffer dogs to detect the virus, according to Reuters.

Prof James Logan: ‘Two dogs can screen an entire plane with more than 300 people while getting off the plane in just 30 minutes’ © Joe Giddens / PA

James Logan, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who conducted the study in partnership with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University, said different cancers and diseases have their own “odor signature”, which can be detected by weapon breeds such as Labradors and cocker spaniels.

“We are not saying that dogs can replace LFTs and PCRs, but they can be an additional tool in some situations,” he said. “Two dogs can screen an entire plane with more than 300 people while getting off the plane in just 30 minutes.”

Claire Guest, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, said: “A large number of people and organizations are interested. We’ve got a fantastic opportunity for UK UK innovation[with]. . . final phase [trials] in workplaces. . . some NHS partners, there is interest from schools. ”

Covid-19 has a “very, very unique smell”, which means the animals do not struggle to detect it even in a crowd of people.

“They can do it incredibly fast, it’s a 0.5 second sniff to see if anyone has Covid,” she said.

The study, which was funded in part by the health department, used six dogs to sniff out more than 3,500 odor samples. The animals detected the presence of the Sars-Cov-2 virus with an accuracy of between 82 and 94 percent.

It is less effective than PCR tests, which have 97 percent sensitivity, but more successful than lateral flow tests that detect on average 72 percent of symptomatic cases, and 58 percent of asymptomatic.

Unlike an LFT, however, the dogs had a significant number of false positives, when humans were misidentified as with Covid. But the report’s authors argued that it was less disruptive to force a small number to take PCRs for verification than to test an entire group.

Medical Detection Dogs Conduct Training Exercise with Florin © Matthew Childs / Reuters

After the first study is done in a controlled environment, the consortium continues with live trials with as many as 20 dogs.

“We’re been in talks for a while with a number of organizations, including local government, not just in the UK, airlines, airports and workplaces,” Logan said.

Amazon Studios used two dogs for several weeks, along with conventional tests, during the filming of The people we hate at the wedding.

“It worked really well, we used them to test supporting artists who would be close to main actors,” said Rich Gold, Covid compliance officer at Amazon Studios, noting that using dogs is also a more sustainable way than to order. plastic tests.

“We’re dealing with an industry where you have to be away every day on your way to different places and if one person comes down with Covid, it could stop an entire production of millions of dollars.

“Having the dogs is a quick, easy, unobtrusive way to test,” he added.



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