The canines are already able to smell subtle changes in the temperature of a person’s skin which indicates a fever and can also pick up the odour of bacterial infections.
Now the charity Medical Detection Dogs based in Milton Keynes, Bucks, will be training the same dogs to pick up Covid-19.
The charity’s chief executive Dr Claire Guest is confident the dogs can be trained in as little as six weeks. She said: “We’re sure dogs can detect Covid-19. The aim is that dogs will be able to screen anyone, including those who are asymptomatic, and tell us whether they need to be tested.
“This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”
Once trained, dogs could be deployed in public spaces to detect virus victims, or stationed at airports to identify infected travellers entering the country.
Professor James Logan, head of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odours from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy – above theWorld Health Organisation standards for a diagnostic.
“We know that other respiratory diseases like Covid-19 change our body odour so there is a very high chance dogs will be able to detect it.”