COVID-19 Detection Dogs Under Trial To Strengthen Human Biosecurity

With all the vaccine trials emerging today, a unique kind of trial will be initiated as part of Australia’s combat against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fourteen dogs have begun a trial to determine whether the Coronavirus can be sniffed out in Australia’s airports to prevent the virus from spreading to the community.

The said training was initiated at the University of Adelaide and at the Australian Border Force’s National Detector Dog Program Facility in Victoria. This is part of a joint venture into determining the feasibility of training COVID-19 detector dogs.

Should the trial prove to be successful, the detector dogs could potentially provide an “efficient, reliable and complimentary screening method” as part of managing biosecurity.

Previous studies and researches by experts revealed that dogs can detect odours that are produced by the human body’s response to viral infections. In line with this, a team of animal and veterinary science experts are coordinating the Australian arm of an international research alliance led by the National Veterinary School of France.

University of Adelaide’s Dr Anne-Lise Chaber said the training would test the accuracy of the dogs in detecting “volatile organic compounds” in the sweat samples of COVID-positive people.

During the preliminary tests, results showed specialized working dogs can detect COVID-19 in patients, even when people are asymptomatic or in the incubation phase. She cited, “Dogs could be deployed in airports and also used to screen staff in hospitals and travellers in quarantine.”

In addition to the claims, Dr Susan Hazel, fellow UoA researcher said using a scientific approach to dog training could increase the number of possible uses for future detector dog work.

 “The dog’s nose beats the best current technology in identifying infected people,” she said.

On strengthening the country’s human biosecurity defences, the Australian Border Force is committed to taking part in any arrangements as their project team will determine the feasibility of training detector dogs to identify asymptomatic people.

Commander Chris Collinwood assured, “This will ensure the ABF is well placed to implement new enhanced border control measures in protecting the Australian community against COVID-19 and other pandemics.”