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Coronavirus detecting dogs in for a bright future

Chilean police intend to use a revolutionary method to identify people with coronavirus infection, teaching dogs previously used for sniffing out drugs to detect the odour patterns of viruses.

Drug and bomb-finding dogs are retrained in Chile to be able to detect coronavirus infections in patients when they are in the early stages of the disease. The training is aimed to find out whether dogs can identify coronavirus infections from a patient's sweat. The quick decection of the virus would allow for immediate tests performed on the patients, thereby ensuring the prevention of further infections.

The programme currently employs four dogs; they are all labrador-golder retriever mix breeds. After the training, the dogs will be deployed in schools, parks, airports and more crowded areas. "We want to use these dogs - four of them with their trainers at first - to save lives," Lt. Col. Christian Acevedo Yanez said.

The experiment was inspired by previous British successes in the same field. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has successfully trained several dogs to recognise Covid-19 patients based on their odour patterns, in a research project funded by the British state.

Four-legged helpers can be used in areas other than virus detection, even if not in ways we would expect. Singapore has deployed its Spot robot dogs in parks where they are able to measure the distance between people, identify larger groups and remind people to observe safe social distancing. The system has proved to be so successful that the robots have since been deployed in several parks for the prevention of infections, and they even receive reinforcements during peak hours.

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