On May 15, 2020, it was announced that the UK Government has awarded a specialist team of researchers more than £500,000 (~$600,000) to find out if specially-trained bio-detection dogs can be used as a rapid, non-invasive testing measure for COVID-19. In the first phase of the trial, world-leading disease control experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in collaboration with experts at Medical Detection Dogs (https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/) and UK’s Durham University, aim to determine whether dogs are able to detect coronavirus in humans from odor samples. This team has previously worked together to demonstrate that dogs can detect odors from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy – above the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for diagnostic. This new trial will look at whether dogs can be trained to detect coronavirus, even if people are asymptomatic. If the trial gathers sufficient evidence, the first set of dogs could be deployed to key points of entry into the UK within six months to assist with the rapid screening of people travelling from abroad. If successful, these dogs could provide a fast and non-invasive detection method alongside the Government’s robust five-pillar testing strategy (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-scaling-up-testing-programmes), potentially screening up to 250 people per hour each. It is one of a number of testing measures being explored in order to ensure the Government’s response to the virus is as extensive as possible.
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