Dogs Can Detect COVID-19 Infections If Trained: Study

Dogs Can Detect COVID-19 Infections, Meet Casper and Jaya, COVID warrior dogs
Dogs Can Detect COVID-19 Infections: A recent study published on COVID-19 has shown that dogs using their sense of smell, can detect COVID-19 infections even when patients are asymptomatic. The research conducted has yet to be peer-reviewed.

According to the research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine dogs can detect more than 90% of COVID-19 infections if properly trained. The authors of the research hope that this new finding can help reduce the need to quarantine suspected people and new arrivals. The remarkable sense of smell that dogs have, has been studied by humans and the results have been used for many purposes. Researchers have long proved that dogs are able to sniff out cancer, malaria as well as epilepsy.

Recently, a group of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine wanted to see if dogs could detect the odour that is given off from chemical compounds associated with someone who is COVID-19 positive but does not show symptoms. The researchers then gathered clothing samples and face masks of people who tested positive but are asymptomatic.

200 sample socks ofCOVID-19 patients were collected and arranged in a laboratory to conduct tests for six dogs that have previously been trained to indicate either a presence or absence of the chemical SARS-CoV-2 compound.

Claire Guest, a faculty of the school’s Infectious and Tropical Diseases said that the dogs were trained to understand that they will get rewards for indicating correct answers of positive as well as negatives. The main task for the dogs here is to not identify “false positives” to mess up their reward system. The dogs were to be rewarded with treats even if there were no COVID-19 samples in a given test if they don’t get misled by the “false positives”.

“The key thing is that dogs are significantly quicker than other tests,” said James Logan, the co-author of the study. Several studies have previously shown proof of the concept that dogs can also detect SARS-CoV-2. In this recent study, the six dogs were also successfully able to identify between 82 to 94 percent of SARS-CoV-2 samples overall.

The researchers again then modelled how effectively the success rates are in detecting mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 cases when combined with traditional Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. It was found that using dogs to screen arrivals at terminuses such as airports could detect 91 percent of cases, which is also 2.24 times lower in the rate of transmission when compared to PCR tests alone.

The research conducted has yet to be peer-reviewed. The authors of the research said they hoped their discovery could eventually replace the need for travellers to quarantine as the need has affected all travellers whether they are COVID-19 positive or not. They suggest that dogs would give the first initial screening, and then the arrivals that the dogs indicate as positive would receive a complimentary PCR test. Given the remarkable sensitivity of well-trained dogs, many people would avoid the need to quarantine.

Recently, two specialist military dogs named Casper and Jaya were declared the first dogs to sniff and detect the COVID-19 virus. The two dogs are being trained to scan the samples and detect COVID-19 by the Indian Army. Read more about them here.