Thailand has started using a group of Labrador retrievers as a virus-detecting squad in hopes of identifying people with COVID-19, quickly as the country fights the rise in a number of cases, with clusters at construction sites, crowded slum communities, and large markets.
Angel, Bobby, and Bravo are among six Labrador retrievers that have been given training by researchers at the veterinary of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University to sniff out a distinguished odor that people with COVID-19 secrete in their sweat, some researchers mention.
The results so far are positive. After a few seconds of sniffing sweat samples placed in metal containers, the dogs can say which people have COVID-19 infections. If there are no traces of the infection, the dog will walk past the sample. If it is positive, it will sit in front of it.
“People can simply put cotton balls underneath their armpits to collect sweat samples and send them to the lab. And the result is quite prominent,” Suwanna informed.
The Thai researchers said that as a safety precaution, the sample containers are designed in a way so that the dogs’ noses do not make contact with the samples. They also believe the receptors on cells in dogs' respiratory tracts are not allowing the environment for the coronavirus to attack.
Kaywalee said that while dogs can provide a fast and cheap testing alternative, they do have their own limitations.
“5 p.m. is their dinner time. When it’s around 4:50, they will start to be distracted. So, you can’t really have them work anymore. And we can’t have them working after dinner either because they need a nap. They are living animals and we do have to take their needs and emotions into consideration,” she informed.
“But for me, they are heroes and heroines.”
Text by: Sreyoshi Sil, IBTN9