The Duchess of Cornwall today visited the Medical Detection Dogs training centre in Milton Keynes.
Medical Detection Dogs trains dogs to detect the odour of human disease with the aim of developing faster, more efficient and less invasive diagnostics that lead to better patient outcomes.
Trials are currently underway to determine whether trained dogs can act as a diagnostic tool of COVID-19, with the new project a collaboration between the charity, Durham University and The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
If successful, the trial could revolutionise diagnosis of the virus by enabling screening of high numbers of people, even if asymptomatic.
The Duchess, who is Patron of Medical Detection Dogs, was greeted on arrival by working dog Storm – a Labrador Golden Retriever cross who is also in training to detect the virus.
The Duchess met staff at the centre and watched watched Labradors Marley and Bea sniff out COVID-19 samples, alongside their trainers. It is hoped COVID-19 detecting dogs could be on duty at airports by Christmas.
The Duchess said: “From the minute I visited you, I just knew that there was something very special about these dogs and as we’ve seen today with Covid, how quickly they’re learning to sniff the scent.
“It will be a game changing moment for this country and the world, and luckily it’s Britain that is leading the way.
“But we do need help, we do need more positive samples.
“If we can appeal to all hospitals to please, please give the Medical Detection Dogs these samples because they are going to help to save thousands of lives, and I think that it is so important.
“Also, we need more dogs, we need more handlers, we need more foster homes…
“This is a game changing moment and I really do urge everybody, if they can, to please help us.”
During the demonstrations, Her Royal Highness watched Asher, a cocker spaniel who has only been trained on Covid for two days, pick out the sample with the disease from one of four stands.
The Duchess said: “It’s a very exciting moment. It’s incredible to be able to do that after just two days.”
Find out more about the work of Medical Detection Dogs.