Dogs can be trained to detect up to 94 percent of Covid-19 infections – even in asymptomatic patients – according to UK research published over the weekend, suggesting they can be used at airports and other entry points to screen passengers .
The study tested dogs’ known ability to act as biosensors, able to detect smells related to human health, such as the presence of Plasmodium that causes malaria – as well as drugs, explosives and food.
Overall, the dogs were able to identify between 82 and 94 percent of the samples of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine wanted to know if dogs could detect a distinctive odor released by chemical compounds associated with someone who is Covid-19 positive but is not showing any symptoms.
They collected garments and face masks from people.
In one test, the socks from 200 Covid-19 cases were collected and arranged in laboratory tests for six dogs trained to indicate the presence or absence of the chemical compound.
The team at LSHTM, Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University said the research showed that the Covid-19 infection “has a distinct odor that dogs can detect with incredible accuracy.”
To our knowledge, this study is the first to assess whether trained dogs can differentiate between the scent of people infected with Sars-CoV-2 and those who are not infected, in a randomized double-blind study involving trainer and monitor were not aware of the study group for each sample, and with a high enough number of dogs and individuals donating samples, ”the researchers wrote.
The dogs had to be trained not to identify “false positives” in an attempt to have treats, even if there were no Covid-19 samples in a particular test.
The results have not yet been peer-reviewed.
On Friday, Thailand deployed dogs trained to detect coronavirus infections by sniffing samples of human sweat as the country faces an increase in infections, including many asymptomatic cases.
Three of the six Labrador retrievers trained had shown a success rate of about 95 percent, comparable to the study results in the UK.