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Could dogs help in the detection of COVID-19? Studies suggest it’s possible

Results show high evidence that dogs can detect a person infected by COVID-19

Dog snout.
Dog snout.

Leave it to man’s best friend to lend us a hand -- err, paw -- during a worldwide pandemic. At least, that’s what some researchers are hinting at.

According to a couple of recent studies, there is substantial evidence that dogs could detect a person infected by COVID-19 by sniffing out his or her odor.

Dogs, by nature, have this superpower, if you will, to use their sense of smell in unique ways. In fact, dogs are also known for being able to detect things like pregnancy, different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease and malaria, as well as aid people with diabetes and those who suffer from seizures and migraines, according to Understanding Animal Research.

Having said that, it’s not a total shock that dogs could possibly sniff out and detect COVID-19 in someone, but still, really cool, right?

One recent study, conducted in May 2020 and posted June 5 on bioRxiv, details the study. Though small, the results prove to be hopeful.

In this study, a total of 198 armpits sweat samples (101 positive samples and 97 negative samples) were gathered from three different areas in Europe. At each location, both positive and negative sample collections were taken to be used in the study.

The dogs then took one to four hours to sniff samples that included anywhere from four to 10 positives.

Through the evidence found in this study, researchers concluded that there’s “high evidence that dogs can detect a person infected by the virus responsible for COVID-19 disease.”

But while BioRxiv receives many new papers on COVID-19, it has emphasized that results on this particular study are preliminary reports that have not yet been peer-reviewed. While the evidence is substantial, they should not be regarded as conclusive.

Three different types of detection dogs were used, including explosive-detection dogs, search-and-rescue dogs and colon cancer-detection dogs. It’s important to note that, researchers were not aiming to provide evidence that all dogs are able to detect COVID-19, rather that well-trained dogs might be capable.

[Read the full study/report by clicking or tapping here.]

Researchers at the veterinary and human medicine faculties at the University of Helsinki conducted a separate study in which dogs sniffed urine samples. The study, which concluded in May, also showed promising results. It indicated that dogs appear to be quick in detecting the virus, and might even be more sensitive than many of the tests that are currently on the market. Click here to read more about this study.

So, how could this be put to use?

Researchers say it’s important to explore the possibility of introducing the dog-detection as a rapid, reliable and cheap “tool” to perhaps pre-test people who are willing, or to be a fast-checking option in certain circumstances.


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