As half America prepares for reopening despite the epidemic continuing to reap lives, in Pennsylvania eight Labradors have been hired in a pilot test to find out if their powerful sense of smell is able to smell the coronavirus. The study, started in Philadelphia by the University of Pennsylvania, relies on 300 million dog nose odor receptors against only six million in humans: if the experiment is successful, man’s friends may be enrolled. already in July in an experimental canine task force to screen at airports, companies or hospitals. It would not be a surprise if Poncho and the other seven “Labs” were to give satisfaction: already on the front lines to detect explosives and smuggled foods, dogs know how to smell malaria, types of cancer and even a bacterium that is devastating Florida citrus groves. “Viruses have specific odors,” explained Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center at Penn’s School of Veterinary.
“We don’t know if they will smell the smell of the virus or the virus response or a combination, but it doesn’t matter.” In the first stage of training, Philadelphia vets are teaching Labradors to identify an odor in exchange for food. They will then be sent to sniff urine and saliva samples from positive and negative patients from two city hospitals. The third stage is the most complicated: it will be a question of identifying the virus in a person who is also asymptomatic. US veterinarians are not alone in testing dogs in anti-Covid operation: another study is underway at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London where their ability to discover malaria has already been ascertained. “Dogs are a diagnostic tool that could revolutionize the response to the virus,” said director James Logan who hopes to field six of them in UK airports.