A UK trial to see whether specialist medical sniffer dogs can detect coronavirus in humans is set to begin.
The dogs are already trained to detect odours of certain cancers, malaria and Parkinson’s disease by the charity Medical Detection Dogs.
The first phase of the trial will be led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, along with the charity and Durham University.
It has been backed with £500,000 of government funding.
Innovation minister Lord Bethell said he hoped the dogs could provide “speedy results” as part of the government’s wider testing strategy.
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The trial will explore whether the “Covid dogs” – made up of Labradors and cocker spaniels – can spot the virus in humans from odour samples before symptoms appear.
It will establish whether so-called bio-detection dogs, which could each screen up to 250 people per hour, could be used as a new early warning measure to detect Covid-19 in the future.
The first phase will involve NHS staff in London hospitals collecting odour samples from those infected with coronavirus and those who are uninfected.
Samples of breath and body odour could come from a number of sources, including used face masks.
Six dogs – Norman, Digby, Storm, Star, Jasper and Asher – will then go through training to identify the virus from the samples.
The charity said the training could take as little as six to eight weeks.
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says more than 30 countries have asked Japan for favipiravir (Avigan) to fight Covid 19
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