Animals Helping With Covid-19

Poncho, a yellow Labrador retriever, is training to detect the scent of the coronavirus as part of a University of Pennsylvania study. (Pat Nolan for Penn Vet)

As we move to reopen after weeks of shutdowns due to Covid-19, Penn Vet is in the news with some groundbreaking techniques to help with the ramped-up testing.

Penn Vet In The News

There has been a lot of talk about opening safely, how to test people, and identifying asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19. With that in mind, currently, eight Labrador retrievers at the University of Pennsylvania — and their powerful noses — have been enlisted to help.

The dogs are the first trainees in a Penn Vet research project to determine whether canines can detect an odor associated with the virus that causes the disease COVID-19. If so, they might eventually be used in a sort of “canine surveillance” corps, the university said — offering a noninvasive, four-legged method to screen people in airports, businesses or hospitals.

Cynthia M. Otto, director of the Working Dog Center at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, says that dogs have successfully been trained to sniff out drugs, explosives and contraband food items, malaria, cancers, and even a bacterium ravaging Florida’s citrus groves.

Since viruses have specific odors, Otto believes that dogs can be trained to sniff this virus out as well. The implications of this are huge. Stay tuned for more from our very own Penn Vet. We are so lucky to have such an innovative program in our own backyard.

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