COVID-19 Detection Dogs
COVID-19 detection dogs: learnings and the future
COVID-19 is the first virus to be investigated with dogs and the process of understanding the potential applications as well as the challenges for this work has been an invaluable process.
As you know, in our first study, which was carried out in our Bio Detection training area, dogs were trained to identify the odour of COVID-19 from a small piece of sock worn by an individual suffering from the virus. Six dogs were taken to trial and proved that they could find an infected individual very reliably with up to 94% accuracy. This part of our study was published in the Journal of Travel Medicine.
Following the publication of our Phase 1 results we worked hard to achieve the relevant data to validate dogs’ impact in this model, but the successful vaccination program rolled out in the UK meant that focus changed from prevention of infection from transmission to prevention of severe illness through vaccination. This greatly reduced the number of LFT and PCR tests being taken by the public and all government guidelines and provision for testing stopped.
In addition, it became apparent during the course of the pandemic that as the virus mutated and became more transmissible, but generally less life-threatening, that the odour signature (when looking for the human response to the virus) became less detectable. This has been validated by other organisations from around the world carrying out similar research. The more deadly Delta variant being more detectable by dogs that the subsequent Omicron variants.
In doing this we will be prepared for either future pandemics or the possibility that a further mutation of COVID-19 is either not responsive to the vaccination or is significantly more aggressive/deadly.
The conclusion of the COVID-19 research to date on this project can be found in a collaborative paper written by us and experts from around the world published in Frontiers in Medicine in December 2022