SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean police are training sniffer dogs to detect the coronavirus in people’s sweat at an early stage, after a similar trial in the UK showed encouraging results.
Four dogs have been selected for the initial training, a mix of labradors and golden retrievers who sport green “biodetector” jackets for their task. They are being trained at the Chilean Carabineros´ specialist training base in the capital Santiago.
Sniffer dogs are best-known for detecting drugs, explosives and people but have also previously been trained to detect other diseases including malaria, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
Lieutenant Colonel Cristian Acevedo Yanez, director of the police specialty training school, said dogs had more than 3 million olfactory receptors, more than 50 times those of humans, so were uniquely placed to help fight the coronavirus.
He said the canines could play a critical part as Chile seeks to gradually reopen its schools and shops and get people back to work.
“The role of police is to strengthen our detection abilities in this ‘new normal’,” he said. “The idea is that our dogs would be in busy places such as schools, bus terminals and airports, and could detect people at an early stage of the disease to be able to isolate them and perform the appropriate PCR test, avoiding mass contagions,” he said.
“Essentially what these dogs, four at first, and their guides, will do is save lives.”
(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by David Gregorio)