Do dogs smell the coronavirus? The experiment

Do dogs smell the coronavirus? The experiment

In the UK, a trial has started to evaluate whether trained dogs can smell the coronavirus. In the past, in fact, the same type of animals has identified other diseases such as malaria or Parkinson’s disease.

Covid experimentation with animals

Dogs may be able to smell coronavirus sufferers. And to demonstrate this in the United Kingdom, an ad hoc experimentation has started on some dogs committed to recognizing certain odors associated with COVID-19 . 

But the British example is not the only one in this sense: for some months, in fact, the University of Pennsylvania has also been carrying out a similar research project involving eight Labradors .

The sniffing of dogs for early detection of diseases

The UK project has received a £ 500,000 grant from the government and will be jointly led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine , the charity  Medical Detection Dogs (MDD)  and Durham University .

The hope of British Innovation Minister Lord Bethell is that trained dogs can provide “quick results”, as some of their four-legged predecessors have previously been able to detect the presence of odors related to tumors , malaria and Parkinson’s disease .

In practice, the experimentation is aimed at verifying whether Covid dogs (Labradors and Cocker spaniels) are really able to identify the presence of the virus in humans before symptoms appear. All by simply sniffing specific samples . 

According to scholars’ estimates, if the project is successful,  the animals could analyze up to 250 people per hour . The analyzes conducted by Medical Detection Dogs, in fact, have shown that trained dogs have a formidable nose and that they are able to detect the smell of a disease even in the presence of minimal traces. 

How the experimentation will take place

In light of all this, Claire Guest – doctor, co-founder and CEO of MDD – said she was “sure that dogs will be able to find the smell of Covid-19”.


The first phase of the trial is currently underway and the staff of the National Health Service  is in charge of collecting a series of odor samples from coronavirus infected patients, but also from healthy subjects in London hospitals. 


“Our previous research has shown that malaria has a particular smell – explains James Logan, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – and for this reason we were able to train dogs to identify its traces in a timely manner. We are also aware that some respiratory diseases can modify body odor and for this reason we are confident that animals can also detect Covid-19 “.

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