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buy apple developer account :Italian dogs sniff through Covid-19 bootcamp

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ROME — It was Harlock's first day at coronavirus training school and she already showed promise. 

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The one-year-old German Shepherd's task on Wednesday morning was simply to place her slightly wet nose on a black tube. 

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"Sniff," encouraged her trainer, Mr Massimiliano Macera, who was quick to reward his furry student with treats whenever nose met tube. 

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"She's already got it!" he added, smiling at his protégé, part of a team of dogs learning how to sniff out Covid-19.

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The project, which began 10 days ago at Rome's Campus Bio-Medico University Hospital, involves training dogs to detect the presence of coronavirus in human sweat.

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If found to be reliable, it could prove a faster and cheaper method of detection in crowd situations, whether a football match or rock concert, say those working on the project. 

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"If we have 1,000 people we have to screen with an antigen swab, it would take us about 20 minutes for each person," said Dr Massimo Ciccozzi, a professor of epidemiology at the university. 

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"A dog, using their olfactory senses, would take 30 seconds maximum."

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Dogs, with their sensitive noses packed with receptors, are increasingly being used to detect human diseases, including cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's.

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Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, researchers in countries around the world including Finland, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates have launched sniffer dog trials.

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But some scientists believe such testing has not yet been widely adopted by authorities in part because of a lack of peer-reviewed literature. 

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rAn instructor poses with his sniffer dog during an experimental training to detect Covid-19 through sweat at the Campus Bio-medico University Hospital in Rome, Italy on March 31, 2021. Photo: AFP

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WORK IS PLAY

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Mr Macera's company SecurityDogs has six pups in the programme, among them Roma. The four-year-old Dutch Shepherd was outfitted in her uniform, a turquoise and black harness proclaiming the dog's Covid-fighting role.

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"The first part of the dog training is getting them to recognise the volatile organic compounds that characterise the Covid disease," said Silvia Angeletti, the hospital's lab director.

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She called the study the first based on collaboration between laboratory research and field experimentation.

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For now during the training phase, biological samples come from patients with coronavirus inside the hospital.

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After the dogs can reliably recognise the disease, the project will focus on patients at a drive-through testing centre on the campus.

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Those willing to participate will turn over a gauze sample of their sweat, which will be placed inside a metal receptacle inside the testing room to be sniffed by the dogs.

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