An incredible new weapon in the fight against coronavirus will soon be let off the leash in Australia.
Experts say sniffer dogs that can instantly detect COVID-19 are almost ready to be rolled out, and they will be able to give an immediate diagnosis rather than the days of delay for swab results.
That will make the dogs ideal for working in environments where rapid testing will be crucial, such as airports once international flights resume.
The University of Adelaide is working with numerous government agencies to coordinate the canine training program which is expected to have the dogs ready in a matter of months.
‘It is not new that dogs have an extremely good noses and are able to screen for some diseases,’ Anne-Lise Chaber, a veterinarian and expert in disease detection told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It has already been done for Parkinson’s Disease and certain types of cancer.’
A ground-breaking French study recently confirmed that search dogs from the national fire department were able to sniff out coronavirus sufferers with an accuracy rating of 100 per cent in some cases.
The dogs were even able to detect the virus in infected patients who are completely asymptomatic.
The success of the findings led Ms Chaber and Australian authorities to seek out search dogs in South Australia to collaborate the data.
‘Dogs catalogue things by their odour profile, similar to how our eyesight works,’ Alex Withers, canine capability manager for the South Australian urban search and rescue task force, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We will just teach the dogs that this odour profile, which is COVID-19, will equal a success.
‘For dogs, it’s like a game of hide and seek with their nose.’
The reward for detecting positive coronavirus sweat samples – or COVID-19 Volatile Olfactory Compounds – will either be a quick game or a delicious treat.
There will be several different breeds of dog trained in South Australia and New South Wales over the coming months, but Mr Withers said the program will mainly consist of Labradors and German Shepherds.
‘If we get dogs that are already trained to detect other scents it will take around six to eight weeks to fully train them,’ Ms Chaber said.
‘If we take a green dog, that means a dog that has never been trained to detect other scents, it will take up to six months to train them.’
Once man’s best friend has undergone the training period and the results have been assessed, the pooches will be ready to assist front line workers in the battle against COVID-19.
‘It’s likely they will operate in airports and hospital settings and it could also be used in aged care homes,’ Ms Chaber said.
‘These dogs can work for several hours and they can test and screen a lot of people and the results are immediate.
‘We will definitely see them before the end of the year.’