Coronavirus: Sniffer dogs trial going 'very well'

Last updated at 08:41
AsherMDD/Bexarts

A trial to see whether dogs can detect coronavirus is going "very well", according to the charity behind it.

Six dogs are currently being trained by Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes.

Dr Claire Guest from the charity, said the dogs were already showing signs that they would be able to sniff out the virus.

She has previously trained dogs to spot the scent of malaria, cancer and Parkinson's disease.

Claire Guest and her dogsMDD
Dr Claire Guest lives with Asher, one of the dogs involved in the trial, along with prostate cancer detection dog Florin and E. coli detector Tala

"The study is moving forwards very well and the signs are all really positive," said Dr Guest.

"At the moment, we are cutting up tiny strands of a tennis ball, and then touching the strands with a piece of paper and hiding the paper, and they are able to find it. They are incredibly skilled."

What do the dogs have to do?
the six dogsMDD

Six dogs chosen to take part in the trial: Norman, Digby, Storm, Star, Jasper and Asher, are being trained to smell the virus on sterilised socks, stockings and face masks worn by NHS staff in London.

The next stage is seeing if the dogs can detect the virus from samples without any help from their trainers.

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Find out how dogs can be trained to spot different help conditions

The set of 3,200 samples is expected to arrive next week, with the dogs needing to work out from a set of samples which ones have the virus and which ones do not, and alert the trainers.

If it can be shown that the dogs are able to detect the presence of coronavirus from the samples, it's hoped the dogs can be used to screen people arriving into the country, as well as being used at testing centres.

StormMDD/Neil Pollock
Storm, a three-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever cross enjoys chase games, cuddles and sunbathing

After eight weeks of training, dogs who have show success in detecting the virus will be tested in real situations, with the aim that eventually they could screen up to 250 people per hour.

The trial, backed by £500,000 of government funding, involves scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University.

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