We all are aware that Dogs can help us in a lot of ways. Now, they may help us get back to normal after the pandemic by using their exceptional abilities to detect odors and sniff out cases of the coronavirus. A new study has found that Dogs could be used to sniff out people with asymptomatic COVID-19 at air ports and mass gatherings.
“The pandemic has led to enormous restrictions and sanctions affecting public as well as private life. Containing this global pandemic requires a high rate of testing, as an effective tool to contain viral spread. Scent detection dogs could be a reasonable option for a first line screening method in public facilities such as airports or during major events as well as in retirement homes or medical institutions that would be real-time, effective, economical, effortless and non-invasive,” Study says.
In the German Armed Forces, ten species of dogs were trained to smell the virus on sweat, saliva and urine. The ten dogs used in the study were five Malinois, three Labrador Retrievers, one German Shepherd and one Dutch shepherd crossbreed. They were aged between one to nine, and six were female. Some had a history of either protection work or explosives detection, while others had only received obedience training.
The researchers said that dogs’ “extraordinary olfactory sense” means they have previously been deployed to identify pathogens and diseases from samples, and they can provide “reliable and immediate results”.
When their noses were put to the test on 5,242 samples from people who were positive and negative for COVID-19, they were 91 per cent accurate in identifying a positive person by smelling their sweat. Sweat samples came from individuals who wiped their armpit with a cottonpad. The samples were then deep frozen in a laboratory at minus 80C until the day of testing.
The senior study author, Cynthia Otto, Director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Working Dog Center said, “This is not a simple thing we’re asking the dogs to do. Dogs have to be specific about detecting the odor of the infection, but they also have to generalize across the background odors of different people: men and women, adults and children, people of different ethnicities and geographies.”
The dogs were able to correctly identify 82 per cent of positive cases when smelling saliva, but were most successful when smelling urine.
“That’s something we can carry forward not only in our COVID training but in our cancer work and any other medical detection efforts we do. We want to make sure that we have all the steps in place to ensure quality, reproducibility, validity, and safety for when we operationalize our dogs and have them start screening in community settings,” Otto noted.
Researchers say this detection technique could be used to quickly identify people within large groups who are positive for the virus.
University of Pennsylvania
BMC Infectious Diseases
Journal PLOS One
Open Government Access