KEY POINTS

  • German researchers found trained sniffing dogs can distinguish between samples of COVID-19 patients and healthy people
  • After sniffing over 1,000 samples, the dogs were able to accurately detect 157 positive identifications
  • The accuracy was a whopping 94%

It is a known fact that dogs have an amazing sense of smell and are capable of actively sniffing out diseases including deadly cancers and viral infections. Now, a new study pointed out that dogs can detect COVID-19.

Thanks to over 300 million receptors in their noses, dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell and have been used to detect bombs, drugs, health ailments, etc. Researchers pointed out SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 will soon be added to the list of medical conditions dogs can detect.

The ongoing pandemic highlights the importance of fast and reliable testing for accurate identification of all types of SARS-CoV-2 carriers to reduce the spread of infection. Current testing methods require nasopharyngeal swabs applied by a trained person and an RT-PCR test for pathogen identification. Since this can be time-consuming, there is a need for additional faster, reliable, non-invasive and versatile screening tools to detect symptomatic, asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases.

The researchers trained eight German army detection dogs for a week to detect saliva and other samples isolated from the lungs and windpipe of COVID-19 patients.

They were curious to find if dogs could differentiate between samples of infected individuals and those of healthy ones. They then tested the dogs again and even their supervising researchers didn’t know which sample each one was.

Here’s what they found:

  • After sniffing over 1,000 samples, the dogs were able to accurately detect 157 positive identifications, 33 incorrect results
  • The accuracy rate of sniffing positive samples was 94%

"Dog odor detection is far better than the general public can imagine. Nevertheless, we were amazed at how quickly our dogs could be trained to recognize samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected people," India Times quoted behavioral researcher and Bundeswehr dog trainer Esther Schalke.

The study authors said they have created a solid foundation for future studies in order to investigate what these animals can smell and find out if they can also be used to differentiate between different types of illnesses.

dog-838242_1920 Dogs can sniff-out SARS-CoV-2: New study Photo: LUM3N, Pixabay