NEW DELHI, Feb 9: In a first for the country, the Indian Army is using its dogs for quick detection of COVID-19 to cut down time delays associated with regular diagnostic techniques.

The canine members of the armed force are known for their pronounced olfactory capability and have earlier helped in explosive and narcotics detection, search and rescue operations, and other challenging tasks. Now, they have another job.

Two dogs – two-year-old Cocker Spaniel Casper and one-year-old Jaya, a Chippiparai, which is an indigenous breed from Tamil Nadu – have been trained to detect COVID-19 by sniffing samples of sweat and urine, senior Army officials said.

A demonstration of their skills using real samples was held on Tuesday on the premises of the 48 Military Veterinary Hospital at Delhi Cantonment.

Lt Col Surinder Saini, instructor at the Dog Training Facility of the Remount Veterinary Corps Centre in Meerut, said these dogs are “pioneering canines” of not just the Army, but of entire India.

“Countries like the UK, Finland, France, Russia, Germany, Lebanon, the UAE and the US have already trained dogs for detection of COVID-19. Dogs have been previously used abroad to detect malaria, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, but this is the first time canines have been used for medical detection in India,” he said.

“Army dogs were successfully trained on specific biomarkers emanating from urine and sweat samples of positive patients. These samples do not contain living virus, but only volatile metabolic biomarkers, which the dogs have been trained to detect,” Saini said.

“This is the first time in India that the olfactory capability of canines are being used to detect tissues infected with pathogens releasing volatile metabolic biomarkers,” he added.

The Indian Army has around 1,200 dogs, out of which nearly 700 are deployed, a senior official said.

“Besides these two dogs, eight other dogs, including four Labrador, are also undergoing training,” Saini said.

One-year-old Mani, another Chippiparai dog undergoing training, also showed his skills during the demonstration.

“The use of such canines in detection of COVID-19 can assist in quick and real time detection of the disease, and help in cutting down scale of RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests, both of which take time. And, in Army, time is of the essence. Besides, these dogs can be used at live events to screen people,” the instructor said.– PTI