Trial finds sniffer dogs CAN detect Covid-19 - and KGH played a huge role

Staff at the hospital are celebrating today

Monday, 24th May 2021, 5:07 pm
KGH Research Nurse Margaret Turns and Bramble during the Bio-detection Dog visit to KGH in August 2020

A trial which Kettering General Hospital staff played a huge part in has found dogs can detect Covid-19 by smelling an infected person.

Volunteers from the Rothwell Road site wore special socks and T-shirts and had Covid tests, as part of a national research trial to see if dogs could be trained to detect people with coronavirus.

Out of all NHS trusts taking part KGH was one of the largest single contributors to the study, and even had a visit from the dogs involved and members of the national research team last summer.

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The national research team and some of the bio-detection dogs meet the KGH research team in August 2020

And today research findings have been released - showing dogs can identify Covid-19 with up to 94 per cent accuracy.

Respiratory consultant Dr George Tsaknis was KGH’s principal investigator (lead doctor) for the trial.

He said: “It was fantastic. Our research nurses worked really hard to promote the trial and their dedication and encouragement really paid off in terms of how many volunteers we got to take part.

“We have managed to get 200 samples from KGH volunteers and every one of those has helped in the national research.

“I want to say a big thank you to every single person who supported the trial including our hard working research team.”

The findings were released by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University.

It means that, potentially, two specially trained dogs could screen up to 300 aeroplane passengers in 30 minutes.

This could mean other passengers would not need to have a PCR test.

Kettering General Hospital’s lead research nurse Joanne Walsh said: “The trial started in July 2020 and for several months we were the lead national contributor to it in terms of the number of staff we encouraged to get involved.

“Our staff wore special masks for three hours, and T-shirts and socks for 12 hours, and were tested for Covid-19.

“The samples were then sent to researchers who could use them to see if the dogs could pick out individuals who had tested positive for Covid.”

One of the benefits KGH’s research team has seen from the bio-detection dog trial – and Covid-19 research in general – has been an increased willingness and awareness of the importance of research in both patients and staff.

KGH interim director for research and development Dr Ajay Verma, said: “The high profile of research during the Covid-19 pandemic has had a very positive knock on effect for our research programme.

“Staff and members of the public seem more willing to take part in research and understand that it is an important contribution to the way we tackle many different medical problems.

“The research we did with the bio-detection dogs – and the visit we had from them in August 2020 – really raised our profile within the hospital and was a light-hearted moment that made people smile at a time when we were surrounded by a lot of stress and sadness.

“I want to thank everyone at KGH who helped to make our contribution to this important piece of research such a success.”

Project lead Professor James Logan, head of the department of disease control at LSHTM, said: “A huge thank you to all the staff at Kettering General Hospital, and all other NHS staff, who have supported this important piece of national research."