Where have the last two months gone since our previous post?
Covid-19 has exposed an enormous gap between (on the one hand) the medical expertise, competence and empathy of doctors, nurses and other staff ‘on the front line’ and (on the other hand), the shortage of leadership skills within the NHS. So, let’s look at three heart warming stories involving our furry friends.
One of six dogs who could lead the way for dogs to be used to identify travellers entering the country infected with Covid-19 the virus or to be deployed in other public spaces.
A UK trial has begun to see if specialist medical sniffer dogs can detect coronavirus in humans. The dogs are trained already by the charity Medical Detection Dogs to detect odours of certain cancers, malaria and Parkinson’s disease. Read more→
These diseases have their own unique odour: the charity believes medical detection dogs can be trained to detect COVID-19 too and that this could be an important part of the efforts to overcome this epidemic. Read more→
A dog’s incredible sense of smell is thanks to the complex structure of its nose, which contains over 300 million scent receptors, compared to 5 million in a human. Thus, they have an incredible ability to detect odours, and are the best biosensors known to man, which, combined with dogs’ ability to learn makes them perfect for detection dog.
Many of us will have encountered sniffer dogs at airports, where they are commonly used to detect explosives, drugs and agricultural products with high levels of accuracy.
“Llama with Envy-inducing Eyelashes” [Original Source: New York Times 06.05.20]
Who would have thought that a llama called Winter with, “Envy-inducing eyelashes” could be important in the fight against Covid-19?
Living on a farm run by Ghent University, Winter participated in virus studies involving SARS & MERS. Her antibodies staved off those viruses so scientists from The University of Texas, The National Institutes of Health and Ghent University’s Vlaams Institute for Biotechnology postulated that the same antibodies could also neutralize the virus that caused Covid-19. They were right, and published results on 5 May 2020 in the journal Cell.
© Tim Coppens
The researchers are hopeful the antibody can eventually be used as a prophylactic, by injecting someone, such as a health care worker who is not yet infected, to protect them from the virus. While the treatment’s protection would be immediate, its effects wouldn’t be permanent, lasting only a month or two without additional injections.
This approach is at least several months away, but the researchers are moving toward clinical trials. Additional studies may also be needed to verify the safety of injecting a llama’s antibodies into humans.
“Vets & nurses needed for NHS hospital wards” [Original Source: Vet Times 03.04.20]
In April, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reached out to animal health colleagues for assistance with clinical care for critical care and acute medical patients.
The role (described as a ‘bedside support worker’) includes tasks such as monitoring temperature, pulse and respiration; blood pressure and oxygen saturation; as well as venepuncture and venous cannulation, “If trained and assessed as competent to do so”.
Health Service Journal also reported that Torbay and S. Devon Foundation Trust had recruited 150 vets and veterinary nurses to enrol as, “Respiratory assistants” to act as the “eyes and ears” of the ICU medics. A trust spokeswoman said that veterinary staff have valuable skills to support our staff caring for patients with respiratory problems.”
Vet Times reported that, within 48 hours, 4,000 vets, veterinary nurses and students had signed up and that Dr Jo Hillard, who developed the idea, was in contact with about 50 Trusts – including in London, Wales, Liverpool, Birmingham, Nottingham and Norfolk.
An Acute Manager commented on HSJ’s article:
“It’s all hands to the pumps. If all staff are working flat out and need help I think asking people with medical and surgical training is a good idea (probably safer too).”
Elsewhere, a retired Consultant Anaesthetist wrote:
“Humans often successfully help others in an emergency, so the idea that having a formal education in a field closely related to the emergency might impair the chance of success seems bizarre” and more contentiously, “If a human is in the throes of a medical emergency, many vets might do a better job than many medical doctors, depending on the type of problem [paraphrased].”
¹ News sources:
There have been many occasions when compelling, and often bizarre stories have arisen during the pandemic.
Handling the pandemic has been characterised throughout by delays, wilful ignorance, dumbness, statistical gymnastics, cronyism and contradictions by government and NHS leaders. For this reason, almost as soon as we identify an interesting subject, contradictory information has appeared with indecent haste.
For this reason, CRASH recommends the following information sources for regular updates on Covid-19.
The New York Times: normally available on subscription, NYT is providing free access to global news and guidance on coronavirus. It issues a daily update by email with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment. Register here→.
Health Service Journal: always a ‘must read’ for professionals, leaders and anyone with an interest in health and social care, access to coronavirus-related articles is free here for registered users. Normally HSJ is available on subscription only, although registered users can access five free articles per month.
Meanwhile, we continue to monitor Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.