Publish date: 10 July 2020

Could dogs offer quick and effective diagnosis of COVID-19?

This is what UCLH researchers in virology and occupational health will be testing – with the help of sniffer dogs Digby, Jasper, Storm, Asher, Star and Norman. Watch videos of the dogs here.

And the UCLH team led by virologist Dr Catherine Houlihan will be recruiting staff to take part in the proof of concept study.

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell which far surpasses our own. We already know they can detect changes in human body odour linked with diseases such as cancers and even malaria. They can even predict seizures in epileptic patients.

Researchers at UCLH working alongside the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Durham University and the charity Medical Detection Dogs will first seek to train the sniffer dogs to detect signs of Covid-19. They later plan to trial use of the dogs in airports.

If the trial is successful, trained dogs could be deployed in ports of entry or to any public space to provide rapid non-invasive screening – meeting the urgent need for improved large-scale availability of diagnostics for Covid-19.

Researchers are looking for NHS staff and members of their households who are due to have a swab test for Covid-19, who currently have no symptoms or mild symptoms associated with the disease (and no previous clinical or lab diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19).

Taking part in the study would involve providing the result of your swab test, as well as samples of your breath and body odour, gathered by wearing a mask for 3 hours and nylon socks for 12 hours.

Anyone interested in taking part can email