Coronavirus has infected more than 4.5 million people across the world, and the UK death toll is continuing to rise. The government will now trial “COVID dogs” to try and find individuals infected by the virus before the characteristic symptoms develop.
The UK has officially passed the peak of the coronavirus infection.
But the government has urged the public to stay at home, to avoid becoming infected or spreading the virus further.
Despite nearing the final stretch of the COVID-19 outbreak, hundreds of people are still dying in the UK everyday.
In a further bid to try and identify infected individuals before they can spread the virus, the government has backed trials for COVID dogs.
The dogs will be trained to detect coronavirus in people, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms.
Dogs have previously been able to detect a number of health conditions in humans, including some cancers, malaria, and even Parkinson’s disease.
The COVID dogs, which are a mixture of labradors and cocker spaniels, will be trained to smell the odour of the virus.
NHS staff will collect odour samples from people with coronavirus at London hospitals, as well as those that tested negative.
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Six bio-detection dogs will then undergo vigorous training to identify the infection from the samples.
If the plan works, the COVID dogs will be able to screen up to 250 people in a single hour.
Lead researcher, Professor James Logan from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, thanked the government for the £500,000 funding.
“Our previous work has shown that malaria has a distinctive odour, and with Medical Detection Dogs, we successfully trained dogs to accurately detect malaria.
“This, combined with the knowledge that respiratory disease can change body odour, makes us hopeful that the dogs can also detect COVID-19.
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“If successful, this approach could revolutionise how we detect the virus, with the potential to screen high numbers of people.”
The government’s funding for the scientists forms part of the wider support for innovative schemes.
The Minister for Innovation, Lord Bethell, said: “Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy.
“Accuracy is essential so this trial will tell us whether ‘covid dogs’ can reliably detect the virus and stop it spreading.”
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Meanwhile, if you think you may be infected with the coronavirus, you should remain at home for at least 14 days.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms include a new, continuous cough, and a high fever.
Patients have also reported shortness of breath, losing their sense of smell and taste, and even diarrhoea.
In the UK, 236,711 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 33,998 have sadly died.
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