Could man’s best friend be the solution to widespread COVID-19 testing?
Researchers on both sides of the Atlantic think that Fido’s fantastic sniffer may be helpful. Separate efforts are underway at the Working Dog Center at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to see if dogs can pick up the scent of people with COVID-19.
“We don’t know that this will be the odor of the virus, per se, or the response to the virus, or a combination,” Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center, told the Washington Post in late April. “But the dogs don’t care what the odor is. … What they learn is that there’s something different about this sample than there is about that sample.”
A dog’s sense of smell can be 100,000 times better than a human’s, according to PetMD. That’s because they have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to our paltry 5 million to 6 million.
COVID-19 certainly wouldn’t be the first time dogs have been trained to sniff out diseases in humans. They’ve been used to detect cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s.
“Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odours from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy—above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic,” professor James Logan, head of the disease control department at the London school said in a news release. “This new diagnostic tool could revolutionise our response to COVID-19.”