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Northwest Iceland’s police chief hopes to bring specially trained COVID sniffer dogs to the country, RÚV reports. Icelandic police have been in regular contact with UK organizations which train dogs and are investigating the possibility of training them to detect the coronavirus in individuals. Preliminary results show that dogs are able to detect positive samples of COVID-19 with an accuracy of around 90% and it was only this week that the “ corona dogs ” began to work in the framework of ‘a pilot project at Helsinki Airport.
By The New York Times, The COVID dog test seems much less uncomfortable than the nasal swab method: Travelers to Helsinki, for example, have their sweat tested. First, they wipe their necks, then drop the sample into a container and pass it to a corona dog handler, who allows the dog to sniff it along with other containers with different scents. Dogs are able to detect positive samples for the coronavirus in about ten seconds; the whole process takes less than a minute. According to Finnish researchers, the dogs were also successful in detecting the virus in asymptomatic carriers.
“The British have experience in training dogs with malaria”
The Northwest Iceland Police oversee the training and assessment of all police dogs in the country. Police chief Stefán Vagn Stefánsson said he was closely monitoring the progress of tests with COVID sniffer dogs abroad, and more specifically those taking place in the UK, as the British started training corona dogs early enough.
“The British have already trained dogs with malaria in The Gambia in 2016, which has given good results,” he noted. “They put us in touch with the scientific institutes that are doing this work in the UK [the London School and Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Bernham University] and we were able to follow their research. “
Once the British dogs achieve a high enough success rate, Stefán hopes to start a similar project in Iceland.
Two dogs, one hour, 500 samples
“We have all the knowledge we need here to train these dogs,” he said. “We have located dogs overseas that have not yet been fully trained and can be brought into the country. It would probably take about two months for dogs to be able to sniff and detect skin swabs.
In British studies, corona dogs are able to smell up to 250 samples per hour, which means, Stefán pointed out, that two dogs could sniff up to 500 samples per hour. “And, of course, to maximize accuracy,” he continued, “you could have two dogs smell the same samples.”
While Stefán is undoubtedly excited about the potential of the project and its applications in Iceland, he stressed that it will be important to see how the pilot projects in Finland, Britain and Germany progress. “And then, of course, it will be up to people other than us to decide if this becomes a reality here.”