Can Covid-19 Be Smelled?

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Alexandra Sternlicht   Forbes U.S. Staff

Dog detecting coronavirus

Photo: Medical Detection DogsĀ 

The answer is maybe, yes; The U.K. has invested about $600,000 to determine whether drug-sniffing dogs can be trained to smell COVID-19 while a small California-based company has partnered with airplane manufacturer Airbus to bring a machine to market that can detect chemicals, explosives and biological threats like the coronavirus.


- The U.K. government is sponsoring a study in which researchers will try to train six labradors and cocker spaniels to detect Covid-19—even in people before they exhibit symptoms, according to CNN. 

- Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health are presenting the dogs with facemasks and nylon socks worn by people with Covid-19. 

- Meanwhile overseas, San Rafael, California-based Koniku, says it’s engaged in a “quite preliminary” phase with the FDA to bring an odor detection machine to market that may be able to detect coronavirus, CEO and founder Oshiorenoya ‘Osh’ Agabi told Forbes.

- Agabi hopes to launch tests of the technology, which is based on living cells that react with target molecular compounds in the air, in airports by the fourth quarter.

- Agabi says people would breathe into a Koniku device before entering the airport, and they would subsequently be granted entry if deemed healthy.

- He also hopes the device will be used at stadiums, grocery stores and other places where mass gatherings occur.


“We feel a sense of obligation to contribute to restoring consumer confidence in the American economy,” said Agabi.


Odor detection is notoriously hard to mechanize, which is why airport sniffer dogs have yet to be replaced, so it’s important to keep a healthy dose of skepticism about Koniku’s claims, notes the Financial Times.



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Alexandra Sternlicht   Forbes U.S. Staff

I’m the Under 30 Editorial Community Lead at Forbes. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing.