The Police in Chile are training dogs to detect people that may be infected with the coronavirus by sniffing their sweat. The virus has no smell but, rather, the infection generates metabolic changes, and this leads to the release of a particular type of sweat with a detectable odour which is what the dog would detect.
Dogs to sniff Coronavirus
The dogs being trained for the purpose are three golden retrievers and a labrador. They are between the ages of four and five. These dogs have already been of much help. Previously they have been used to sniff out illicit drugs, explosives and lost people, Chilean police said in a statement.
The training programme is a joint effort by Chile’s national police, the Carabineros, and specialists at the Universidad Catolica de Chile.
This ingenious idea follows in the footsteps of identical efforts taking place in France, said Mr Julio Santelices, head of the police school of specialities.
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This idea has the potential to help us reimagine the ways to combat a pandemic like the ongoing one. Using dogs for these kind of tasks is a creative and intelligent approach. This approach could leverage the benefits of the amazingly sensitive senses dogs possess.
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Sweat samples taken from Covid-19 patients
Dogs have an astounding 330 million olfactory receptors and an excellent ability to detect smells 50 times better than humans. They can also smell a whopping 250 people per hour.
The dogs are being provided training to successfully accomplish the purpose they at going to be used for. It has been a month since the canine trainees started their education. They are using sweat samples taken from Covid-19 patients being treated at the Universidad Catolica’s clinic.
Can coronavirus be smelled?
“The virus has no smell but, rather, the infection generates metabolic changes”, and this leads to the release of a particular type of sweat with a detectable odour “which is what the dog would detect”, Dr Fernando Mardones, a Universidad Catolica professor of veterinary epidemiology, told Agence France-Presse.
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According to Mr Santelices, tests in Europe and Dubai have shown a 95 per cent efficiency rate in canine detection of Covid-19 cases.
The Medical Detection Dogs, a British charity set up in 2008 especially to harness dogs’ sharp sense of smell to detect human diseases, also started training canines to detect Covid-19, this was already started from late March.
“The importance of this scientific study is that it will allow dogs to become biodetectors and detect this type of illness at an early stage,” Mr Santelices said.
Dr Mardonesalso shared that there is already evidence that dogs can detect diseases such as tuberculosis, parasite infections and even early stages of cancer.
This is possible because Canines can detect subtle changes in skin temperature. These qualities make them useful in specifying if a person has a fever.
The experts hope to train the dogs and have them working in the field by next month.
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They plan to deploy them with an officer in areas which are pedestrian-heavy such as train stations and airports, besides health control stations.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, the possibility of contagion from a dog is remote.
For latest updates on the outbreak check out our Coronavirus Coverage.
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