Man's best friend turn K9 Covid-19 detectors in Thailand

Sniffer dog Sammy takes part in a training to detect the Covid-19 (coronavirus), at K9 Detection center, in Bredene, western Belgium, on March 3, 2021. (Photo by JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT

BANGKOK (Bernama): The one-year-two-month-old sniffer dog, Bravo is seen wagging its tail as it walked into a room at the Small Animal Hospital Chulalongkorn University where it sniffed at six canisters.

The Labrador Retriever sat down in front of one canister while an officer in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit marked the canister. Bravo had detected the perspiration scent of a Covid-19 patient.

Bravo is one of the six Labrador Retriever trained by Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science to detect Covid-19 patients, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, with an accuracy of 94.8 per cent.

At present, Bravo and another two Labrador Retrievers in Bangkok are undergoing their "training” at the faculty by screening students and lecturers at the university while the other three also undergo their training in southern Thailand where they will be used to detect Covid-19 patients at entry points.

As Covid-19 cases continue to soar, man’s best friend is being called to detect Covid-19 infections.

Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Veterinary Science researcher Professor Dr Kaywalee Chatdarong said the method is cheap, non-invasive, fast and accurate in distinguishing both asymptomatic and symptomatic Covid-19 patients from healthy individuals.

She said Bravo worked one to two hours in the morning and at least an hour in the afternoon at the faculty.

"A dog takes only one to two second to detect the virus. Once the dog detects the perspiration scents of Covid-19 patients, it will sit down immediately.

"Three dogs could sniff about 1,000 samples a day, ” the head of the research team said.

She added the dogs will work in the field next month.

Kaywalee said the research had been certified by Ethics Committee, Ministry of Public Health and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to ensure that there is no implication on the health and welfare of staffs and K9 dogs involved.

The research project "K9 Dogs Sniff Covid-19”, a partnership between Chulalongkorn University and Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Limited, is to train dogs to bio-detect and screen Covid-19 patients.

These dogs have been specifically trained for this project which started in November last year where they were trained to recognize perspiration scents from armpits on cotton swabs and socks of Covid-19 patients who are diagnosed and certified by RT-PCR method and healthy individuals.

An observation by Bernama showed the process took less than 15mins.

A sweat sample is collected and then inserted into a canister. Then, it will be presented to the dogs in a separate room.

To date, canines around the world have been undergoing special training in detecting asymptomatic Covid-19 patients. Studies say they can detect infection even in the earliest stages when a RT-PCR test would give a negative result.

Pakistan, Chile, Finland and UAE are among the countries to deploy sniff dogs to detect Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile, a veterinarian specialising in infectious diseases and a member of the faculty's research team Assoc. Prof. Somporn Techangamsuwan said Labrador Retrievers were chosen as they were friendly and have an incredible sense of smell, 50 times greater than human.

"They are able to detect volatile organic compounds from patients’ perspiration which are unique from those of uninfected persons.

"Therefore, the use of bio-detection dogs will complement the current temperature scanners to detect more asymptomatic Covid-19 patients with higher accuracy.

However, those sniffed out by the dogs will need to undergo Covid-19 RT-PCR test to confirm whether they were really Covid-19 positive, she said.- Bernama

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