Why use dogs?
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that eclipses our own abilities by orders of magnitude. The complex folded structure of their nasal cavity which results in a huge surface area is home to over 300 million scent receptors compared to 5 milllion in a human. This makes it ideal for detecting odours and combined with their ability to learn, means dogs are great biosensors, capable of detecting odours associated with drugs, explosives, and food, which most of us will have encountered at airports.
Medical Detection Dogs has more than 10 years of research experience, in training bio detection dogs to detect the odour of disease from samples in a controlled environment, and then applying that knowledge to train them to identify changes in human odour caused by certain medical conditions.
Over the past 10 years Medical Detection Dogs has published in numerous peer reviewed journals, demonstrating that the dogs’ accuracy in detecting the odour of disease is reliably between 85 and 90%. Their research has also demonstrated that dogs can be trained to detect odour at dilutions of parts per trillion, which is the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic sized swimming pools of water.
We know that dogs can already be trained to indicate the presence of respiratory conditions such as lung cancer through changes in the VOCs emitted from patients. Recent research on flu viruses has shown that they interact with the human immune system and change our VOC profiles. Dogs have already been shown to be able to detect the odours associated with respiratory infections, so we were confident that dogs could do it for COVID-19.