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."
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.