A squadron of Labrador retrievers are being trained to possibly sniff out the coronavirus in unsuspecting carriers, The Washington Post reports.
A University of Pennsylvania research project has enlisted eight dogs to determine whether they can detect an odor associated with the virus (a similar program is under way at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). If it works out, dogs could theoretically be used to help track and trace the virus at airports, businesses, or hospitals, like they already do for drugs, explosives, and other contraband. Dogs have been shown to be effective at detecting malaria, cancers, and harmful bacteria with their noses, so it’s not out of the question they could do the same for the new virus.
Like just about everything else associated with COVID-19, there are a lot of unknowns, including the fact that canines may be able register the smell using urine and saliva samples, but struggle to do so in a living, breathing, walking human.
Even if the training is successful, there could be a demand problem — there’s already a shortage in detection dogs, after all. To counter, scientists at Penn hope they may be able to learn from dogs and create an “electronic nose,” or sensor based off the research. Read more at The Washington Post.
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