The UK is planning a trial in which dogs will be trained to determine if someone has COVID, even if they are asymptomatic.
When a person is infected with a pathogen, be it bacteria, virus or fungus, they may elicit an odor. Researchers from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University will train the canines to learn the smell taken from samples of hospitalized patients.
If all goes well, the UK may have a team of dogs ready to screen travelers coming into their country within 6 months. Euronews reports that the dogs could potentially screen up to 250 passengers an hour.
We assume authorities would then test the potential COVID patient by conventional antigen testing, but the screening process may allow countries to open their borders sooner than anticipated.
Can pets detect cancer?
PBS reports that dogs can smell 40 times better than humans, with over 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose. They can smell parts per trillion, a keen sense that is potentially sharp enough to pick up cancer cells and the smells they produce.
Healthline reports that cancer cells raise polyamine levels which come with an odor. Moreover if cancer cells incite an immune response, this can expel a scent as well.
In 1989 a case report revealed a woman’s dog tried to bite a mole off her leg which ended up being malignant melanoma.
According to a 2011 study in the journal Gut, Labrador retrievers were able to sniff out colon cancer in 97% of stool samples.
The Italian Ministry of Defense’s Military Veterinary Center was successful in training German Shepherds to recognize prostate cancer proteins in urine to 98% accuracy.
For those of you with a pet pigeon, don’t feel left out. A University of Iowa study found pigeons to be trained to detect breast cancer cells to 85% accuracy.
So despite our animals possessing the power to sense microscopic anomalies, we shouldn’t panic every time they sniff or lick us. But if they persist on one area of your body, it might be worth getting checked out.