HONOLULU (KHON2) — A ground-breaking pilot project went into effect on Maui to use dogs to screen students and staff for COVID-19 at Seabury Hall.

Medical Detection Dogs is the first of it’s kind to take place anywhere in the world, and Assistance Dogs of Hawaii (ADH) unleashed the project to provide real-time results and prevent the spread of infection.

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“The goal of this pilot project is to demonstrate that medical detection dogs can provide an
additional screening method that is fast, accurate, inexpensive and non-invasive,” said ADH
Executive Director, Mo Maurer.

The dogs are able to detect coronavirus by sniffing skin odor samples on a cotton pad that is wiped on the neck of participants. The cotton pads are then placed in a lineup of boxes and if the dogs identify one containing the scent of COVID they will paw at the box. It takes 20 seconds for a dog to sniff ten boxes.

“We are so excited to be part of this study, it’s cutting edge and it’s going to serve our children
and the future. The next time we are faced with challenges, we’re going to have better
solutions,” said Seabury Head of School, Maureen Madden.

The four Labrador Retrievers dogs participating in the program are Sadiem, Tess, Georgia and Grace.

ADH said that participation in the project is voluntary and poses no risk to the participants or the dogs because the virus cannot be transmitted through sweat.

This method of screening could also be proven useful for low-income countries and regions where access to vaccinations and testing may not readily be available.

“We are planning to share the protocol we created with other agencies that can scale this
program worldwide. The dogs are able to generalize and alert to different variants without
additional training, so they can be deployed quickly if the need arises in the future.”

Mo Maurer, ADH Executive Director

ADH said that dogs have an incredible sense of smell that is over 100,000 times stronger than humans which allows them to detect parts per trillion.

“Dogs have so much untapped potential to help people, especially in the field of medical bio-detection. We are just beginning to understand what they are capable of,” said Maurer.

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The research team said they are now investigating how early dogs can detect COVID-19 in comparison to antigen and PCR tests.