Update 17/5/2020 : Trails with dogs in the UK
Dogs have an exceptional sense of smell, many animals are better than humans in this respect, even though mothers can usually pick t-shirts worn by their children out of a pile. We all know dogs have been trained to detect heroin and other drugs, promting smugglers to hid them in coffee for instance.
From talking to dog training experts we learned that dogs can be trained for a lot of jobs, but always one job at a time, unless its natural behaviour. They trade performance on a detection job for play and attention, and what they will do shifts constantly dependent on what you reward with play.
Dogs can smell pathogens and diseases, some diseases cause our body to produce ammonia or aceton which is easy to detect, but diseases with less dramatic effect have also been detected, amongs others the flu. When we looked into this we found that dogs have been trained to detect bird flu (H1N1 or avian influenze) and could do it quite reliably:
Another disease dogs can detect is cancer. The most interesting aspect of this ability is the stage in which the cancer is present in the patient.
” One study found that dogs trained only to detect breast cancer were also able to detect melanoma and lung cancer, meaning that there may be a common odor signature across different types of cancer. “
Cancers are growths that are developing blood vessels and may be distressed causing them to emit a smell. It may be that the process of infection of the coronavirus also produces specific chemicals and protiens a dog can smell on our breath, or even from further away. The virus is breaking into cells, the cell will start making the virus and burst releasing the virus into the air.
There is a risk though that dogs actually contract the virus themselves. The question is then how contageous and affected would they be. Its also a question how long it would take to train a dog if it where possible or what the dog would be trained on, a real virus or a patient or a destroyed virus? It may not be as easy as we like but we think dogs may be a great patner in detecting infected people and help us stop the spread from infected but not sick patients.