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Duchess of Cornwall meets dogs being trained to detect coronavirus

Camilla has been patron of Medical Detection Dogs since 2014

Danielle Stacey

The Duchess of Cornwall has urged members of the public to help with "game changing" trials teaching dogs to sniff out coronavirus.

Camilla, 73, visited her patronage Medical Detection Dogs charity in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, where she watched demonstrations from pups in training.

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WATCH: Camilla visits Medical Detection Dogs training centre

The Duchess appealed for more volunteers and for all hospitals to provide the organisation with positive COVID samples to speed up the vital research.

Camilla, who wore a plastic visor for parts of her public engagement, said of the charity: "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."

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Camilla wore a plastic visor for part of her visit

The Duchess then added: "But we do need help, we do need more positive samples.

"If we can appeal to all hospitals to please, please give the Medical Detection Dogs these samples because they are going to help to save thousands of lives, and I think that it is so important.

"Also, we need more dogs, we need more handlers, we need more foster homes…

"This is a game changing moment and I really do urge everybody, if they can, to please help us."

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The pups put their training to the test

Camilla, who is the owner of two rescue dogs Beth and Bluebell, watched as cocker spaniel Asher and fox red Labrador Belle were taught to sniff out COVID-19 samples alongside bio detection specialist trainers.

The collaboration between the charity, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University will ascertain whether dogs can detect the odour of the COVID-19 illness.

If successful, the trial could revolutionise diagnosis of the virus by enabling screening of high numbers of people, even if asymptomatic. It is hoped COVID-19 detecting dogs could be on duty at airports by Christmas.

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The Duchess gets acquainted with Chocolate Labrador Basil

Professor Steve Lindsay, from the Department of Biosciences at Durham University, said: "If we can show that our trained dogs can identify people carrying the virus, but who are not sick, it will be a game changer.

"We will then be able to scale-up the use of dogs at ports of entry to identify travellers entering the country with the virus.

"This could be very important to help prevent a second wave of the epidemic."

Medical Detection Dogs trains dogs to smell disease in humans, as well as acting as alert dogs for those with medical issues such as type 1 diabetes. The Duchess of Cornwall has been the charity's patron since 2014.

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