Researchers trying to find out whether dogs could sniff out coronavirus

New Delhi (NVI): Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in human beings. On the basis of this unique capability, researchers at Helsinki University in Finland are investigating whether dogs can detect people infected with Covid-19 by the smell of their urine.

The researchers at the University are examining whether dogs’ sense of smell could be a faster and more accurate test for coronavirus, reports News Now Finland.

Scientists from the university’s medical and veterinary science departments are conducting the research and preliminary studies have shown that trained dogs have been able to differentiate between urine from someone infected with coronavirus, and a healthy person.

One of the researchers told News Now Finland that they started with two dogs to make sure that they don’t get sick and it might be dangerous for the handlers as well.

Anna Hielm-Björkman, Associate Professor of Animal Clinical Research at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine said that the dogs involved in the research had previously been trained to detect breast cancer and prostate cancer based on scent profiles.

She further added that at the start of each day they just need to be ‘calibrated’ with treats to know which puzzle they’re working on that session: cancer or coronavirus.

“Dogs are very good at learning new things, and it really seemed the dogs we re-trained were happy to learn something new, that cancer seemed for them to be a bit deja vu already,” she told News Now Finland.

In the preliminary tests done at the university, it was found that dogs were able to identify someone with coronavirus before they showed any clinical symptoms, and even before a normal test would come back with a positive result.

Interestingly, scent dogs in Finland are usually trained to identify mold in buildings. They are also used to sniff out cockroaches, bed bugs or other insect infestations.

Similar researches are being done in the UK and at Penn State University in the US to find out if dogs can be trained to detect coronavirus in humans.

According to scientists at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) in the US, dogs could be in possession of a unique capability to sniff out disease in saliva and urine samples.