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How are dogs on the front lines of Covid-19?

BANGKOK — Bobby is a good boy. Bravo too.

Angel is a good boy and when she sits The furry hind legs slide slightly on the tiled floor. She raised her paws emphasizing, as if to say, This is this cotton ball identified by my pointed nose. One that smells like COVID-19.

all three labrador which operates in a university clinic in Bangkok It is part of a global group of dogs trained to sniff COVID-19 in humans, preliminary studies conducted in several countries. It suggests that the detection rate may be higher than the rapid antigen test often used in airports and other public places.

Dr. Kewalee Chatdarong, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok said, “For dogs, the smell will be clear It’s like roast beef for us.”

The hope is that the dogs can be used in crowded public places such as stadiums or transport hubs. to identify the person who is the carrier of the virus Their skills are being developed in Thailand, France, England, Chile, Australia, Belgium and Germany among other countries. They have patrol airports in Finland, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. and private companies have used these airports in American sports.

Angel is a pale blonde with puffy cheeks and likes to nibble on plastic bottles. But the whole group of dogs trained in Thailand – Angel, Bobby, Bravo and three others – Apollo, Tiger and Nasa – detected the virus with accuracy 96.2 percent of the time in a harsh environment. It is regulated, according to university researchers. Studies in Germany and the UAE have lower but still impressive results.

The sniffer dogs worked much faster and cheaper than polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, said the researchers. The intake of air through their sensitive noses was sufficient to identify volatile organic compounds or cocktail compounds, the researchers said. produced when patients with COVID-19 Removes damaged cells in seconds.

“PCR testing is not immediate. and have a false negative As we know dogs can detect coronavirus during the incubation period,” said Dr Anne-Lise Chaber, an interdisciplinary expert at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who worked as a Six months with 15 covid sniffing dogs

Some detection methods, such as temperature screening Asymptomatic infections could not be identified. But dogs do because infected lungs and bronchial tubes produce that trademark odor. Thai researchers say dogs need fewer molecules to detect coronavirus than are required for PCR testing.

Thai Labrador is part of a joint research project between Chulalongkorn University and Chevron. The oil company had previously used dogs to test offshore workers for illegal drug use. And Thai managers wonder if these animals can do the same for the coronavirus. in theory Dog’s ability to smell COVID-19 It’s no different from being able to detect drugs, bombs, or scooby candy hidden in a bag.

The six dogs were assigned to six caregivers, where they touched the sweaty cotton swabs from the socks and armpits of the infected people. The risk to dogs is small: the coronavirus is not easily spread through sweat, researchers say. which is a commodity that is plentiful in tropical Thailand. But the main transmission route appears to be respiratory droplets.

On rare occasions Cats and dogs that are kept in close contact with infected humans have tested positive for the virus. As with the number of mink and other mammals, however, there are no proven cases of household pets transmitting the virus to humans.

within two months of training Thai dogs can smell about 600 times a day whenever they sense a cellular byproduct of the COVID-19 virus on a cotton ball, which researchers placed at the height of their noses on a carousel-like device.

Wet-nosed dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors, compared to about 6 million humans, and can be trained to recognize approximately 10 odor patterns for specific compounds. Dr. Kayvali said Dogs can also smell through other organs between their noses and mouths.

Some research suggests that different dog breeds may be diagnosed with diabetes. Parkinson’s disease, malaria and some cancers, i.e. volatile organic compounds or bodily fluids associated with them.

said Lertchai Chomrattanakul, Chevron’s project leader. they are cute too This makes them the ideal detective dog: active and energetic.

Khun Lertchai noted that Labradors are expensive, about $2,000 each in Thailand. But cotton swabs and other basic equipment For a dog test, it costs about 75 cents per sample. This is much cheaper than other types of rapid screening. Singapore announces it is approving breath analyzers to detect COVID-19

Three Thai Labradors are stationed in the lower southern part of the country. near the border with Malaysia which the Ministry of Health stated COVID-19 Dangerous has entered Thailand. in the past few weeks The other three were moved to the 9th floor of Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine building in Bangkok. where they lived in the former student dormitory

There is an artificial turf on the roof for quick pitting. And the dogs will run and play every day on the university football field. The rooms are air conditioned.

for a few hours in the morning and afternoon The extractors took turns walking up and down the room with metal arms dangling sweat samples. As they walked past, they could smell up to 10 times per second. Because dogs usually do not. (Humans tend to inhale only once every second.)

Then they went out to the living room for a nap and the occasional tummy rub.

“Their lives are good. Much better than humans,” said Thawatchai Phromchot, Angel’s overseer, who worked as a Chevron supplier before changing his mind to animal health checks.

Thawatchai said he grew up with 12 dogs in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. where the family pets took a nap in the garden and found shade under the trees. They don’t like air conditioning.

Now dogs in Bangkok We are screening sweat samples from Thai people who do not have easy access to COVID testing facilities, such as the elderly or bedridden patients. Dog handlers are working on a project with the city’s prisons. in which thousands of inmates have been diagnosed with coronavirus

Thailand is experiencing its worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic. It is concentrated in prisons, construction camps and other confined spaces. shortage of vaccines and less than 2 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

Researchers at Chulalongkorn have designed a mobile unit they plan to drive to the Covid hot spot so the dogs can identify areas that need mass testing.

There are still many questions about using dogs to test for viruses. What does the vaccinated person smell like? How easy will it be to train large sniffing dogs around the world? What if a person is tested by a dog’s nose, not sweating? What happens if a dog is infected with COVID-19? and loss of smell?

Still, Mr Lertchai said he thought the dogs detecting the virus would be helpful. Especially in countries that do not have the resources for more expensive testing.

“Covid will not go away. And there will be new ways,” he said. “The dogs want to help. So use it.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

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