UK trains dogs to sniff out COVID-19: Will it work?

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DURHAM, England (CNN/Gray News) - The future in the fight against COVID-19 may look a bit furry.

UK research suggests that trained dogs may be able to detect COVID-19 before symptoms appear. (Source: Durham University)

The UK government is funding a $612,000 trial to see if six specially trained dogs can sniff out the virus before symptoms appear.

Our four-legged friends already do this for diseases like Parkinson’s, malaria and prostate cancer.

Durham University scientists have started the research to see if the bio-detection dogs can become new rapid testers for COVID-19.

Their names are Norman, Digby, Storm, Star, Jasper and Asher. Each has a “super sniffers” profile on the Medical Detection Dogs website.

The charity trains dogs to detect a variety of diseases.

The first step is to collect odor samples from London hospital staff with and without COVID-19, according to Dr. Steve Lindsay at Durham University.

"The way we are going to do that is by collecting using face masks, and we’re asking people to wear these face masks for a few hours and then we carefully collect those,” Lindsay said.

Researchers are also asking healthcare workers to wear nylon socks.

“That sounds a bit strange, but we know from our previous experience that this is a really good way of collecting odors from people, and it’s such an easy way to do it," he said.

If the training is successful, dogs will first be deployed to airports, where canines are already used to sniff out drugs and other contraband.

Dogs can screen up to 250 people an hour, according to Medical Detection Dogs.

If the trial is successful, these dogs could provide a fast and non-invasive detection method for COVID-19.

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