Could Trained Dogs Be Used to Sniff Out Passengers with Coronavirus? French researchers found that dogs previously trained for sniffing explosives and colon cancer could be retrained to sniff for COVID-19, although it should be noted that the search and rescue dogs were unable to be wholly retrained for these sniff tests.
The 8 dogs who were able to be successfully retrained to sniff armpit odor samples from subjects who tested positive and negative for COVID-19, with a total of 368 trials involving 33 COVID-19 positive samples in France, and 68 positive samples in Lebanon. The success rate (correct identification of the positive or negative COVID-19 sample) ranged from 84% to 100%, with half of the dogs achieving 100% correct identification rates. This is considerably better than the ~25% success rate that would have been predicted by random choice.
While the study was relatively small, as a proof of concept it demonstrates that certain trained dogs (the ones used in the study were Belgian Malinois shepherds, which are commonly used in France) can be trained to quite accurately detect those who are positive for COVID-19, by virtue of the different odor of their sweat than those who are negative for the virus.
Interestingly, two of the supposed negative samples that were presented to the dogs, who were trained to sit down when they encountered a positive sample, prompted two dogs to identify them as positive. The hospitals with the patients were immediately notified, and subsequent PCR tests for the patients tested positive.
Perhaps, as more dogs are trained, they'll be used by select hospitals or airports to test patients or passengers for potential infection.
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