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Detection dogs trained to sniff out coronavirus

06:20 06/08/2020
From Flanders Today

Soon a sniffer dog will not only be able to detect the marijuana in your backpack but also if you are infected with Covid-19. Dogs are being trained now in a project spearheaded by the universities of Ghent and Liège.

The universities are collecting samples of sweat from coronavirus patients to train the dogs to detect the subtle difference between the odour of sweat infected with the virus and sweat that is not. According to Dr Chris Callewaert of UGent’s microbial ecology department, the dogs should be ready to go to work by the end of the month.

“The dogs must be trained with a specific sweat profile,” Callewaert told Radio 2. “We know that the coronavirus causes a specific odour in sweat. So we are collecting as many sample of sweat as we can. We need samples of sweat from both people who are infected and from those who are not.”

The idea is to loan the dogs out to crowded areas such as airports and eventually festivals or sport events. Other countries are also training sniffer dogs for the purpose; they are already in use in Dubai, for instance.

“If dogs sniff around among people at the entrance, people who are detected as having corona can leave the area at once,” said Callewaert. “Sniffer dogs provide very accurate results, but a test can then be done, of course, to determine if quarantine is necessary. That’s all much faster than waiting until someone has symptoms, then doing a test and waiting for the result.”

While the sweat might smell different, it does not actually spread the virus, so the dogs are not in danger of getting the virus themselves, Callewaert explained.

Photo: Getty Images

Written by Flanders Today