Sniffing out COVID-19; Czechs to use medical detection dogs to help identify virus

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The Czech project Dog for Doc wants to train dogs to sniff out people infected by the novel coronavirus, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes today.

Similar projects have been launched by Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, but all of them are now in the early phases of development.

The Czech plan is a joint project by the Na Bulovce hospital in Prague and the Institute of Microbiology of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

“If the method proves to be effective and we manage to train enough dogs, it would be possible to use them for screening people, for example at the entrances to hospitals,” Petra Holeckova from the Radiation Oncology Institute of the Na Bulovce hospital said.

Dogs could be helpful especially since COVID-19 patients show symptoms only after several days while spreading the virus on and thermal cameras are not effective for this purpose.

Using the data on how dogs detect the virus could also inspire the development of technical solutions, known as sniffers, based on similar principles. The advantage of a dog over a sniffer device is that the dog provides results immediately and can analyze a large number of samples in a very short amount of time.

Holeckova noted that dogs can already detect many diseases, including tuberculosis or Parkinson’s disease.

“I remain cautious. Even if we had evidence that this is possible and other facilities were to join us all around the Czech Republic, I still see issues in the process of collecting samples,” Ludvik Princ, from the Dog Behaviour Research Centre of the Czech Life Sciences University in Prague, said.

The Na Bulovce hospital is now preparing a scent bank that is to be used for the training of the dogs.

The most suitable dog breeds for the purpose are German Shepherds, Springer Spaniels and Pointing dogs, LN writes.

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