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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Snifer dogs at Airport to detect Covid 19 affected !!

What do you do when you arrive in an airport – at Helsinki, after collecting their luggage, arriving international passengers are asked to dab their skin with a wipe. In a separate booth, the beaker containing the wipe is then placed next to others containing different control scents .. .. ..  baffling !!

The picture took the Twitter by storm.  A tan dog in a tactical vest, sitting up at the position of attention, perky ears framing a black face. The mouth wide open, the tongue hanging out the side of the mouth, the dog looks happy, almost goofy.

It was tweeted by the US President Donald Trump – and it was the dog that   chased down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late October, leading to al-Baghdadi's death when he detonated a suicide vest he was wearing.  The “wonderful” Belgian Malinois was injured   in the blast, but has since returned to duty. Assigned to Delta Force, the dog's identity is classified, even as the dog is being hailed as a hero,  and named  Conan.

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell which have made them useful in the detection of diseases for decades.  The complex folded structure of their nasal cavity - which results in a huge surface area - is home to over 300million scent receptors compared to 5milllion in a human, according to researchers at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).  A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to use its senses to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, wildlife scat, currency, blood, and contraband electronics such as illicit mobile phones. The sense most used by detection dogs is smell. The smell from the detection dogs are more enhanced than the average dog. They are trained to have this great sense of smell. A police dog is essentially a detection dog that is used as a resource for police in specific scenarios such as conducting drug raids, finding missing criminals, and locating stashed currency.

Frequently, detection dogs are thought to be used for law enforcement purposes; however, they are also used as a valuable research tool for wildlife biologists. In California, detection dogs are trained to discover quagga mussels on boats at public boat ramps because they are a harmful invasive species for the environment. Detection dogs also tend to be employed for the purposes of finding and collecting the feces of a diverse array of species, including caribou, black-footed ferret, killer whale, and Oregon spotted frog. This process is known as wildlife scat detection. .

And in July, researchers in Germany found trained sniffer dogs can detect the coronavirus in human swab samples with 94 per cent success rate. LSHTM, in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs (MDD) and Durham University, have been rigorously testing whether six dogs can detect coronavirus smells through an intensive training programme, which was announced in May. The researchers collect odour samples from people who are infected with COVID-19, and people who are uninfected. Then, they use those odour samples with six medical detection dogs.  If successful, the clever dogs could be deployed to places like airports within eight to ten weeks after training, the researchers said, where each dog can 'screen' 250 people per hour.

Canine scent detectors have been working at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport since 22 September in a pilot study to see if they can speed up the detection. Four Covid-19 sniffer dogs have begun work at Helsinki airport in a state-funded pilot scheme that Finnish researchers hope will provide a cheap, fast and effective alternative method of testing people for the virus. A dog is capable of detecting the presence of the coronavirus within 10 seconds and the entire process takes less than a minute to complete, according to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial.

In UK, the Secretary of State (Matt Hancock) visited them in order to get an update on that trial. Health Minister Lord Bethell has previously said the method might provide speedy results as part of a wider testing strategy.  The team, who began testing the dogs in May, collect odour samples from people who are infected with Covid-19 as well as ones who aren't, and then train the dogs to tell the difference between them.  'Our previous work has shown that malaria has a distinctive odour, and with MDD, we successfully trained dogs to accurately detect malaria,' he said. 'This, combined with the knowledge that respiratory disease can change body odour, makes us hopeful that the dogs can also detect Covid-19. 'If successful, this approach could revolutionise how we detect the virus, with the potential to screen high numbers of people.' The dogs, a mixture of Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, can already identify deadly diseases including cancer, malaria and Parkinson's disease.  

Research has revealed the dogs are able to detect the odour of disease at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in an astonishing two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. Dogs can pick up the scent in the tiniest shifts in hormones or 'volatile organic compounds' that are released by diseased cells in the body. Human scent consists of a mixture volatile organic compounds that are found in the blood, saliva, urine or breath. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is thought to be the first country to put the method into trial after deploying sniffer dogs to airports in August.

It is hoped that some of the dogs - which have demonstrated they can pick out a positive result within 0.5 seconds from someone who isn’t even showing symptoms of the illness - could be employed in airports, train stations and sporting venues across the country as early as the new year. Camilla, who has backed the charity’s work since 2014, described the dogs as ‘simply remarkable, so impressive’.

Before concluding read that there are dogs that can detect diabetes.  A diabetic alert dog is an assistance dog trained to detect high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia) levels of blood sugar in humans with diabetes and alert their owners to dangerous changes in blood glucose levels.  This allows their owners to take steps to return their blood sugar to normal, such as using glucose tablets, sugar and carbohydrate rich food. The dog can prompt a human to take insulin.When owners with diabetes begin to experience hypoglycemia, the detection dogs perform a predetermined task (e.g. bark, lay down, sit) to inform the person.

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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