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Dogs Should Be Able to Sniff Out Coronavirus

The fight against the novel corona virus continues. Great Britain is now looking to achieve faster and more reliable diagnosis with the help of dogs. But this plan has met with a lot of criticism.

The organization Medical Detection Dogs in Great Britain has set itself the goal of training assistance dogs within six weeks to reliably recognize the smell of corona infected people. With this ability, the dogs should be used to diagnose the new type of corona virus and relieve the strained capacities of existing diagnostic methods.

How could dogs sniff out the coronavirus?

Dogs are already able to reliably sniff out diseases such as diabetes, cancer and bacterial infections. It therefore does not seem unreasonable that dogs also recognize a lung disease such as that caused by the corona virus.

For Professor James Logan, head of the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, it makes perfect sense that dogs can also smell corona infections: “We know that other respiratory diseases, like Covid-19, change our body odor, so the Chances are very high that dogs can recognize these smells.”

Christin Hutterer of the German Assistance Dog Center is also certain of this, since dogs are able to sniff out a changed oxygen composition in the blood simply through the air breathed by the person concerned.

What speaks against the use of dogs in corona diagnosis?

However, the expert for assistance dogs, Katharina Küsters, is a little less optimistic: so far, assistance dogs have only been used to detect bacterial diseases or cancer. Dogs recognize the excretion of bacteria and cancer cells. So far, not a single viral disease has been found in the sniffer catalogue.

It is currently also unclear how best to isolate the smell of a corona patient and present it to the dog. dr However, Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs, is certain that once this question is resolved, dogs can certainly be used successfully to diagnose corona infections.

Christin Hutterer from the German Assistance Dog Center recognizes another problem: dogs are not yet able to distinguish one pneumonia caused by the corona virus from another. However, this is only a minor obstacle: it is currently expected that most pneumonia will be caused by COVID-19 anyway.

Tight schedule for the Corona sniffer dogs

Katharina Küsters, an expert on assistance dogs, also considers the British organization’s schedule to be problematic: Reliably training assistance dogs to diagnose the corona virus within just six weeks is a very short target. A dog that already has sniffing experience and knows how to ignore other smells in human breath would need about 10 to 12 weeks to recognize a new smell. So it remains exciting to see whether the organization and the scientists will actually succeed in training sniffer dogs for corona infections.

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