Police dogs in Chile are being trained to detect Covid-19 in humans by sniffing their sweat.
Chile’s National Police and the Catholic University of Chile are working on a joint project to train three golden retrievers and a labrador to detect “a new odor" in humans which in this case belong to Covid-19 patients, the university’s professor and veterinary epidemiologist, Fernando Mardones told CNN's Spanish-language news network, CNN en Español.
"The selected dogs have years working on the detection of drugs, explosives and other types of things. For them, it is simply learning to detect a new smell, a new aroma," Mardones said.
Coronavirus does not have a smell per se, but sweat does and dogs can be trained to detect the smell of a person going through an infection process, Mardones explained.
"A body that contracts Covid-19 generates volatile organic compounds. A sample is taken from a person in the early stages of the infection. A gauze is left for about 15 minutes on an individual's underarm. That's the sample we store and use to train the dogs with," Mardones explained.
The “bio-detector” dogs, as they are called by the Chilean police, are expected to be trained by mid-September and sent to places with high concentrations of people – such as malls, sports centers, bus terminals and airports, according to the Chilean police.
A dog can smell 250 people in an hour, so they can be deployed when these places reopen," Julio Santelices from the Chilean police said.
"Their olfactory capacity is so great that they would be able to detect the disease early on" Santelices said, adding that "this means that an asymptomatic person could be detected by the bio-detector dog."
The dogs can take from two weeks up to two months to be fully trained. The canines are being taught to sit next to the individual with the Covid-19 virus they have detected, instead of "pawing" the individual as they currently do when sniffing drugs, the Chilean police told CNN.