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COVID-19 dog Asher

Between Friday 11 and Sunday 20 March, we’re celebrating British Science Week. Today we’re reflecting on the important research undertaken by our community to support the global efforts against Covid-19.

Meet the dogs that can sniff out Covid-19

Asher (above) may just look like a cute cuddly dog but he is much more than that. He, along with some of his canine friends, have been trained to sniff out Covid-19 in people and the initial results show they can do it very reliably. 

This is because a research team, involving Durham, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the charity Medical Detection Dogs, has found that Covid-19 has a very distinct odour – which we as humans can’t smell – but the dogs’ super sniffing powers can detect it with up to 94 per cent accuracy. 

Introducing the handheld sensors that can ‘smell’ Covid-19 

Research involving Durham has found that electronic sensors can detect the distinct odour of Covid-19 with almost 100 per cent accuracy. The electronic devices could potentially be used in public spaces as a screening tool to identify people carrying the virus. 

The small-scale study, which is not yet peer-reviewed, shows that Covid-19 infection has a distinct smell, due to changes in the volatile organic compounds (VOC) which make up the body odour – generating a so-called odour ‘fingerprint’ that the sensors can detect. 


Pioneering simulation model helps curb Covid-19 in world’s largest refugee settlement 

A new model developed by our data scientists to simulate the spread of Covid-19 has helped curb the spread of the virus in the world’s largest refugee settlement. 
Leading academics and data scientists from our Physics Department have implemented an agent-based model to simulate the spread of COVID-19 in the Cox’s Bazar settlement, in Bangladesh. We carried out this work in collaboration with: 

  • Groups at the UN: UN Global Pulse, WHO, UNHCR, and OCHA 
  • Academics from Public Health England, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab  

The model is based on the JUNE open-source modelling framework and it has significantly helped the decision makers to curb the spread of the virus in the huge settlement.


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