Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust staff are playing a vital role in a major trial to see if bio-detection dogs can sniff out coronavirus in humans.

The trial, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University, will determine whether dogs could be used as a new rapid, non-invasive diagnostic tool for the virus.

The first phase is funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The researchers are collecting samples from volunteer NHS staff and members of their households from 11 NHS trusts who are due to be tested for Covid-19.

The research team aims to recruit at least 3,500 staff members to provide samples, with a target of collecting 1,000 samples – 325 positive and 675 negative – in order to confidently ascertain if these dogs can accurately detect the disease.

So far Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has over 60 staff signed up to provide samples of breath and body odour by wearing a mask for three hours, and nylon socks for twelve hours, as well as taking a swab test to identify if they are infected with Covid-19.

Dr Raha West, Principal Investigator at the Trust said: “We are very excited to be actively recruiting Trust staff to this trial.

"The aim of the trial is to assess the potential of training dogs to detect odour changes associated with Covid-19 and the possibility of using dogs in addition to Covid-19 testing.

"Our staff are playing a vital role in this study and over 60 members of staff are already enrolled. We’re hoping for more staff to get involved in this worthwhile study.”

Should the trial be successful, these dogs could be deployed to key points of entry in the UK within six months to assist with the rapid screening on people travelling from abroad – with the potential of screening up to 250 people per hour.

Claire Guest, CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs, said: “Our dogs have already successfully detected different types of cancer, Parkinson’s and malaria among other diseases which affect millions of people around the world.

"We are very proud that a dog’s nose could be part of a solution to find a fast, non-invasive way of diagnosing Covid-19 and make a tangible difference to any future pandemics.

"We look forward to sharing the news that the dogs can find the odour of the virus and the accuracy levels they achieve.”

If you are a member of staff at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and interested in taking part in the study, email bht.og.research@nhs.net