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'Medical detection dogs' can be utilised for screening the patients of COVID-19, said a veterinarian associated with sniffer dog department under Union Home Ministry
New Delhi: 'Medical detection dogs' can be utilised for screening the patients of COVID-19 , said a veterinarian associated with sniffer dog department under Union Home Ministry.
Colonel (Dr) PK Chug, Consulting Director, Police K9 Cell, Ministry of Home Affairs, has stressed upon using 'medical detection dogs' for screening people as coronavirus surges, crossing the 20,000 mark in India and 25 lakhs globally.
"Medical detection dog is about utilising dogs in identifying medical sickness. People know that dogs are successful in searching for explosives and drugs. But you would be amazed to know that dogs are used in various other things. Out of that, medical detection is an emerging topic, on which a lot of work has been done. In foreign countries, it has been utilised successfully in detecting different types of cancer," Colonel Chug told ANI.
Colonel Chug has more than 26 years of experience in training police and military dogs.
In order to detect, saliva, blood and urine samples are taken. Based on these samples, dogs detect and tell whether it is a positive case or not, he stated. "Whenever we fall sick, there are changes in our body, and the saliva odour or the urine odour gets changed... Based on this, these dogs are trained so that they can screen and tell you in a non-invasive way that a person is infected with a particular disease," Colonel Chug explained.
So, can these trained dogs detect COVID-19 ? Colonel Chug explained, "Not just in our country, there is a big challenge to detect COVID-19 in the entire world. At London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor James Logan's team has started to work on this. They have earlier worked on malaria detection. They have worked with an organisation, named Medical Detection Dogs."
He stated that the said team is hopeful that this might help in the screening process of COVID-19 since it is not possible to get all people tested at labs.
"Although, it is at an early state. We are in touch with them. We have talked to Professor Logan's team. We also have thought about it and want to do some activity on this in our country. However, since it is in early stage, they have replied saying that they are validating this test. Once validation is done, they will share the outcome with us," Colonel Chug said.
"We too are conscious about it and will try to work on this type of screening process in the future," he added. He said that "Professor Logan's team is first working on to see whether there is any change in our body odour due to COVID-19 ."
"If there is a chance, then only it will be successful. In this, they are particularly focusing on body odour. For this, they would need positive samples. So, the face masks and clothes used by the positive patients will be screened and compared with the controlled ones," Colonel Chug said.
"They will see whether dogs can distinguish successfully that which one is positive and which one is negative. This is because if their success is more than 90 per cent, only then they are used as there are fewer chances for error," he further said.
Colonel Chug called it an "interdisciplinary approach". "Herein medical experts should be satisfied that these dogs can work on that level where we can rely on them and use them," he said.
Asked whether there is a specific breed of dogs used, Colonel Chug said, "Generally, high-quality dogs are used, those dogs which have more prey drive." He stated that usually Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd are used. "In the UK, more focus is on Springer Spaniel and Cocker Spaniel breeds because it is easy to train them fast," he said.
Asked about the outcome, Colonel Chug said, "It would be difficult to say decisively what the outcome will be, but we are in touch with them, watching their study closely. Whatever positive results will come, we will decide our future strategy based on that."
However, he emphasised that it is "100 percent possible and this is a promising field". "The government is bringing focus on this thing. A special Police K9 Cell has been formed and I have been assigned this task," he said.
With India ramping up the testing capacity, weekly and daily positivity rates have been restricted to below 5 percent as the number of recoveries cross 3 crore
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