Researchers are training dogs to identify the coronavirus.

  • Researchers at several universities have conducted pilot training programs using dogs to detect COVID-19.
  • In a new study, trained dogs were able to identify whether or not patients had COVID-19 more than three out of four times.
  • The dogs were more often able to identify patients without COVID-19 than they were able to identify patients with COVID-19.

An elite group of eight highly trained detection dogs could be a specialweapon against the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers in Finland and Pennsylvania first debuted pilot programs as earlyas April, using scent detection dogs to detect the differences between samplesfrom infected and non infected patients.

In a new study by German researchers, eight detection dogs were able to tellthe difference between samples of infected and non infected individuals withaverage diagnostic sensitivity of 82.63 percent and specificity of 96.35percent. In translation, diagnostic sensitivity is the ability to correctlyidentify those with the disease, while specificity is the ability of the testto correctly identify those without the disease.

While the dogs were correct on an average of more than three-fourths of thetime, they were better able to detect patients without the disease than thosewith the disease. This means that there are still some limitations to usingscent detection dogs as a method of testing, and a nasal swab test is stillthe most reliable form of knowing whether someone does or doesn’t havecoronavirus.

But scent detection dogs could possibly provide a reasonable level of comfortfor bars, restaurants or other venues, where there’s not enough time to waitfor a test result. The study also pointed out that in countries with limitedaccess to diagnostic tests, detection dogs could also be used for massdetection of infected people.

Of course, this job isn’t without risks. There have been several reports ofdogs contracting the coronavirus, and while it’s not clear whether this canthen be transmitted to humans, it’s unclear the effect that will have on thehealth of the dog and its ability to detect the disease in others.


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