Aviation

Could airport sniffer dogs detect coronavirus-infected travellers? A new trial is set to find out

A trial is taking place in the United Kingdom to see whether specially-trained airport sniffer dogs could detect COVID-19 in travellers, even before symptoms appear.

The UK government has given a team of researchers more than £500,000 (over $927,000) to put towards training a group of dogs to detect COVID-19.

According to CNN Travel, the group is made up of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with charity Medical Detection Dogs and the UK’s Durham University.

They believe dogs could be trained to detect COVID-19 because respiratory diseases change body odour – an idea that carries precedent as dogs have already been trained to detect infections and diseases like cancer, malaria and Parkinson’s disease.

CNN Travel reported that a preliminary trial has recruited six dogs, dubbed “The Super Six”, composed of labradors and cocker spaniels.

Researchers believe that if the trial is successful, it could be a way to kickstart the travel industry, which has ground to a halt since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It could even eliminate the need for quarantines for air travellers.

They hope the first set of dogs could be deployed to key entry points, like airports, in the UK within the next six months, with each dog potentially capable of screening up to 250 people per hour.

“The basic idea is we can screen travellers innocently coming into this country who may be carrying COVID-19, detect those people and isolate them from the rest of the community,” Professor Steve Lindsay, a public health entomologist at Durham University, told CNN Travel.


Featured image: iStock/surachetsh

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