A veterinary clinic in Germany has trained sniffer dogs to detect the Covid-19 virus in human saliva samples with 94 per cent accuracy. The breakthrough could provide an effective and reliable infection detection technology in various settings like public facilities.
A Deutsche Welle report on Wednesday (Feb 3) announced that dogs trained at the Hanover University of Veterinary Medicine were able to detect Covid-19 with 94 per cent accuracy, regardless if the person was symptomatic or asymptomatic.
The dogs were conditioned to sniff out the “corona odour” coming from cells in infected people, said Esther Schalke, who works as a vet at Germany’s armed forces school for service dogs.
According to the head of the clinic, Holger Volk, the dogs accurately detected the virus in more than 1,000 samples. “We did a study where we had dogs sniffing samples from Covid-positive patients, and we can say that they have a 94 per cent probability in our study … that they can sniff them out,” he said.
“So dogs can really sniff out people with infections and without infections, as well as asymptomatic and symptomatic Covid patients.”
Information on the pilot study of the initiative was released on Jul 2020 by the open-access journal BMC Infectious Diseases. The report noted eight detection dogs were trained for one week to detect saliva or tracheobronchial secretions of Covid-19 infected patients in a randomised, double-blinded and controlled study.
The study’s preliminary findings indicated that trained detection dogs could identify respiratory secretion samples from hospitalised and clinically diseased Covid-19 infected individuals by discriminating between samples from Covid-19 infected patients and negative controls.
The report concluded that Covid-19 detection dogs “may then provide an effective and reliable infection detection technology in various settings like public facilities and function as an alternative or addition to regular RT-PCR screening.”
“In countries with limited access to diagnostic tests, detection dogs could then have the potential to be used for mass detection of infected people.”
The state premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, was impressed with the findings and called for more tests before the dogs were placed to work in a real-life setting. “We now need tests in selected events,” said Mr Weil.
Last Sept 2020, Covid-19 detection dogs began sniffing passenger samples at Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa airport as a pilot initiative alongside the airport’s testing protocols. Other areas that have started employing sniffer dogs include Santiago, Chile and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Covid-19 detection dogs were also used to check fans at Miami Heat basketball games in the United States. (The Independent)