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From seizure and pregnancy detection, to sniffing out cancer, changes in blood sugar, or alerting to dangerous bacteria in hospitals, medically trained dogs are already making important contributions to the public’s health and safety every day.
Now, dogs trained to sniff out patients infected with COVID-19 are proving to be more accurate than nasal swabs and saliva tests.
Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), in cooperation with Germany’s armed forces, the Hannover Medical School and the University Medical-Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf sought to determine if dogs could be used in the fight to end the global coronavirus pandemic.
After only a week of training, 8 dogs from Germany’s armed forces were able to accurately identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes an infected individual to develop COVID-19, in the saliva of over 1,000 people. Most amazingly, the dogs did it with a 94% success rate.
While the study is still in its infancy, researchers hope that specially trained dogs could be employed in public areas such as airports, sporting events, at borders or other public gatherings to help prevent further spread of the virus.
Prior research into the reliability of scent detection dogs found that properly trained dogs could detect the odor of malaria infection with a level of accuracy “above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic,” making them a very fast, efficient, and non-invasive test, freeing up resources and extensive testing for people already showing illness symptoms.
The next step in the dogs’ training will be teaching them to differentiate between COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.