Team trains dogs to sniff for virus

Team trains dogs to sniff for virus

A research team from Chulalongkorn University is gearing up to deploy dogs trained to sniff out Covid-19 at airports and tourism hotspots, after they managed to train six Labrador Retrievers to detect the virus with 95% accuracy.

The head of the research team, Prof Dr Kaywalee Chatdarong, touted the project as Thailand's first medical dog training scheme, saying the canines will be able to help authorities find non-symptomatic individuals in a crowd, as the dogs don't rely on visual cues to make the call.

Under the project, six Labrador Retrievers were trained to react upon detecting Covid-19 in sweat samples given by volunteers and patients. The samples were applied to a cotton pad or a gauze to minimise risk to staff.

One of the trained dogs sniffs a canister for Covid-19. (Photo credit: https://www.chula.ac.th)

A subsequent trial found the dogs had a 94.8% success rate, she said.

"Dogs' sense of smell is 50 times better than humans, making them better sniffers than we are. As such, we intend to put their skills to good use," said Prof Kaywalee, who is also the deputy dean of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Labrador Retrievers, she said, were chosen for the role because they are easy to train and have a calm and friendly disposition.

Prof Kaywalee said the project's results echoed the outcome of similar experiments in Australia, Finland, France and Germany.

The project was carried out with assistance from the Border Patrol Police Division 43, PQA Associates, and sponsored by Chevron Thailand.

Assoc Prof Somporn Techangamsuwan, a team member, said the next phase of the project will see the dogs deployed at airports and other tourist hotspots, where tourists and/or suspected cases will be asked to allow the dogs sniff their feet.

"We hope to expand it to cover other conditions like diabetes, depression, Malaria and Alzheimer's disease," she added.

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