Tuesday, 28 May, 2024
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Namibia trains Beagles to sniff out COVID

A litter of Beagle pups born in 2020 at the height of the pandemic at the University of Namibia (UNAM) School of Veterinary Medicine (SoVM) were the catalyst for the formation of Africa’s first COVID-sniffing dog pilot project.

Medical detection dogs are already trained to spot the scent of malaria, cancer and Parkinson’s disease, reports News24, and the Namibia Detection Dog Project is similar to other projects already running in France, Finland, the UAE and the UK.

Dr Anna Marais, associate dean of the UNAM School of Veterinary Medicine, said: “Dogs have 300m smell receptors in their noses, while humans only have around 5m. More active genes that code olfactory data make their sense of smell hundreds of times more powerful than that of humans. The anatomy of the dog skull also provides a lot of space for these molecules to attach to the smell receptors.”

The SoVM veterinarians identified an experienced dog trainer to work on the project and enlisted the support of four volunteer dog handlers, including a veterinary nurse, a veterinary para-professional, a postgraduate student and a theatre assistant from the SoVM’s staff, to start with the obedience training of four dogs.

At the same time, the Dog Detection Trust was established, with Justice Dave Smuts, Dr Salomo Amadhila and Dr Conrad Brain as founding members. They aim to share information with international researchers and raise funds to build and equip a dedicated dog detection training unit.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition joined the project to look after the nutritional needs of all the dogs in the programme and donated more than R100 000 to the project in Namibia.

According to Marais, the results from the pilot project COVID-19 sniffing results to date “are extremely promising and indicate a similar pattern as those emerging from collaborative projects abroad, with the SoVM dogs presently able to identify well over 80% of the samples correctly”.

“This indicates that dog detection of COVID-19 could potentially be an affordable and reproducible method in the detection of the virus and control thereof, especially in low-income countries with limited lab space.”

 

News24 article – A litter of puppies born in Namibia in 2020 have been trained to sniff out Covid-19 (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Helsinki Airport Covid-19 sniffer dogs start trials

 

Dogs can sniff out coronavirus with 96% accuracy — US proof of concept study

 

Thailand’s airport dogs 95% successful at sniffing out COVID-19

 

UK’s first Covid-sniffing dogs start training at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

 

 

 

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