Adelaide, Australia — Dogs that have previously been deployed to trace drugs, explosives and cancer, are being trained to sniff out people infected with COVID-19.
Researchers in Finland, and at the University of Adelaide in Australia, are in the final stages of training, that could see the sniffer dogs deployed especially at airports and border points soon.
Dr Anne-Lise Chaber of the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences in an interview on BBC , RTE and her university's website , said their training confirmed that dogs can detect, with close to 96% accuracy, the coronavirus in sweat and odours - even of asymptomatic cases.
Studies have previously shown dogs can detect particular odours - known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - which are produced by humans when they are suffering with a viral infection.
Dr Chaber said: "Dogs could be deployed in airports and also be used to screen staff in hospitals and travellers in quarantine."
The most widely used test for Covid-19, according to reports, is Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which sees a swab taken from a person's nasal passage or from the back of their throat. It is then tested to see if the virus's genetic material, called RNA, is present.
"The dog's nose beats the best current technology in identifying infected people. Using a scientific approach to dog training, we hope to increase the number of possible uses for future detector dog work," said another Australian researcher Dr Susan Hazel.
The good news, is according to recent studies, dogs are not susceptible to SARS-CoV2 and the virus cannot replicate in them.
"COVID-19 dog detectors will be a reliable, repeatable, cheap, easy and fast way to screen or pre-screen potential cases," Dr Anne-Lise Chaber told the University of Adelaide website.
"COVID-19 dog detectors will be a reliable, repeatable, cheap, easy and fast way to screen or pre-screen potential cases. "This tool will become crucial when borders reopen or if we face another wave."