Two dogs being trained to smell coronavirus in humans are rescues from Wood Green, The Animals Charity

Jasper (L) and Norman (R) originally from Wood Green are taking part in a UK trial to find out if sp

Jasper (L) and Norman (R) originally from Wood Green are taking part in a UK trial to find out if specialist sniffer dogs can detect coronavirus in humans. Image: Medical Detection Dogs - Credit: Archant

Two of the six dogs that are being trained to ‘sniff out’ COVID-19 in humans are from Wood Green The Animals Charity, which is based in Cambridgeshire.

Wood Green

Wood Green - Credit: Archant

Rescue dogs Norman and Jasper, both working cocker spaniels, are among the canine companions that are undergoing training to pick up the scent of coronavirus in humans.

If the study is successful, in eight weeks each individual dog may be able to screen 250 people an hour for the virus.

Dr Claire Guest, CEO and Co-Founder of the charity Medical Detection Dogs which is coordinating the trial, said: “Our aim is that some of these amazing six dogs will be able to passively screen any individual, including those with no symptoms, and tell our dog handlers whether they have detected the virus.

“This will then need to be confirmed by a medical test.”

Two-year-old Norman is described as “the perfect mix of laid back and motivated” and “takes his job really seriously”. He enjoys free running, sniffing and playing ball.

Meanwhile, Jasper, one, is “fast but methodical” and at home “loves walks and adventures followed by a cuddle”. His favourite food is carrots and he loves playing with his friends and working.

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The duo join Digby, Storm, Star and Asher who are participating in the study which also involves the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University.

Medical Detection Dogs has already shown dogs can detect the signs of malaria, and the charity is keen to find out if coronavirus also has its own distinctive body odour.

Dr Guest said: “We will train them in the same way we train our other Bio Detection Dogs, in our training room, and then transfer them to detecting on individuals in a similar way to our Medical Alert Assistance Dogs.

“The samples that the dogs will be trained on at the centre will be deactivated (dead) virus and therefore of no risk to the dogs or handlers. When sniffing people the dogs will not need to make contact but will sniff the air around a person. The dogs will therefore not be in direct contact with the people screened to prevent the risk of spreading the virus.”

A crowdfunder has been launched to help raise funds for the trial and visit this site to donate.