The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) on August 2 announced the successful training of three dogs for the detection of Covid-19.

CMAC director-general Heng Ratana made the announcement while inspecting and evaluating research work and technical development for the dogs at CMAC’s Technical Institute of Mine Action in Kampong Chhnang province.

He added that after receiving 48 volatile organic compounds from Covid-19 patients from the technical team at the University of Health Sciences, the samples had undergone PCR tests and a cell culture to ensure the samples were safe to use for training.

He continued that in the training course, the first group of three dogs had successfully detected the disease according to their primary research results while the second group of seven dogs was doing remarkably well in their training.

He said that typically the dogs could smell the disease in around 10-15 minutes. The dogs are effective at sensing Covid-19 patients at airports, international border checkpoints and stadiums where people gather.

Ratana said he was proud of results of the research and believed that the dogs would be able to perform as expected. Citing specialists, he said there is no evidence yet showing that Covid-19 can be transmitted from people to dogs.

However, he said the dogs could not yet be used in the field because it takes time for them to be trained directly and practically so that they will be accustomed to the situation and it would depend on the relevant Covid-19 commissions to see when and how they could be used.

Ratana expects that the dogs might detect the coronavirus Delta variant as well because the smell of Covid-19 has not changed much. He said this will be tested further.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine declined to comment, saying she had yet to receive information regarding the announcement of the training results.

Pailin provincial health department director Yuos Sovan welcomed the announcement. However, he had little hope for practical use for the dogs because they are animals and not as precise as scientific equipment.