MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Freya correctly
Freya correctly detects a sample of malaria from a row of sample pots at the Medical Detection Dogs charity headquarters on March 27, 2020 in Milton Keynes, England. The charity is currently working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to test whether the dogs can be re-trained in the next six weeks to provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis of the virus. Medical Detection Dogs has successfully trained its dogs to detect cancer, Parkinsons and bacterial infections, through the sense of smell and is now looking for donations to help cover the costs of the intensive programme. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 20,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
  • The next target for Medical Detection Dogs, a UK-based charity that trains sniffing dogs to recognise diseases, is the coronavirus.
  • The charity is working alongside Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to trial the dogs.
  • Once a way to safely catch the coronavirus' odor is established, the charity estimates it will take six weeks to train up a coronavirus sniffing dog.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

There could be a new way to spot the coronavirus - sniffer dogs.

In the UK, dogs trained by a charity called Medical Detection Dogs are experts at recognising diseases like cancer, malaria and Parkinson's by their scent, according to the BBC.

Their next target is the coronavirus, and if successful they could be a valuable tool identifying carriers at busy areas like airports.

The charity told BBC each disease has a unique smell, and it would take about six weeks to train a dog up to recognise the coronavirus.

The charity, working alongside Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), is planning to trial the dogs on the coronavirus once a safe way of catching the virus' odour from patients is established.

In a statement, the charity said the dogs can also identify changes in skin temperature, meaning they might be able to recognise when someone has a fever, according to the Independent.

As for accuracy, LSHTM head of disease control Professor James Logan told BBC that the dogs could detect malaria infections by odor at levels "above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic."

Sniffer dogs might not seem like a big deal, but testing the coronavirus is an important part of getting coronavirus cases under control. Knowing how large an outbreak is and how quickly it's spreading is essential for policymakers, healthcare providers, and the public, according to Business Insider's Andy Kiersz.

Durham University professor Steve Lindsay told the Independent: "If the research is successful, we could use Covid-19 detection dogs at airports at the end of the epidemic to rapidly identify people carrying the virus."

"This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease after we have brought the present epidemic under control," he said.

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