Dr Judith Harvey: ‘Kika & Me’ will inspire GPs

1st November 2021 by Dr Judith Harvey

Dr Judith Harvey: ‘Kika & Me’ will inspire GPs

Many medical traditions use body odours as a diagnostic tool, but by the time I was a medical student diabetic ketoacidosis and renal failure were the only conditions I recall being associated with a characteristic smell. Now the odours caused by specific biochemical changes generated by many more diseases are being recognised, at least by dogs.

In 2016 I wrote about dogs’ ability to accurately detect various cancers. In 2021 biodetection dogs can identify Parkinson’s, malaria, bacterial infections and Covid-19. The challenge is to develop a clinically feasible way of using these skills. Employing dogs in outpatients or biochemistry labs isn’t a practical idea, but surely putting them to work at airports would be a feasible and effective way of screening incoming passengers for covid?

Service dogs are trained to screen large areas rapidly for chemicals. They have been detecting mines for many years. But warfare has changed. Dogs are now being trained to identify the household items used in booby traps and IEDs. Dogs also investigate fires because they can detect chemicals used by arsonists. And dogs can assist individual members of the armed forces and emergency services who develop PTSD.

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