Sniff and tell:  Dogs prove effective in mass testing for Covid-19

Researchers have found a way towards effective mass testing for coronavirus, and they have done it by deploying dogs.

Mass testing for Covid-19 has been a challenge the world over. At a time when the pandemic raged across the globe, it had become a tough task for healthcare professionals to go about ascertaining who had contracted the virus and who is safe from infection. Now an effective way has been found to do that, and helping humans in doing that are dogs, trained ones for that matter.

A group of researchers who have been working closely with various institutions in France and the United Arab Emirates, found a way towards effective mass testing for the novel coronavirus. They did so by deploying dogs in the testing process.

The realisation that trained dogs could prove to be effective when it comes to mass screening people for Covid-19 has resulted in the researchers publishing a paper in this regard in the open-access site PLOS ONE. The researchers have elaborated on how they made dogs to sniff human sweat samples, and how well they proved effective in determining the presence of the virus in the people they tested.

Dogs can sniff and find out if a person has an ailment

The idea seems to have risen from the earlier studies which had hinted that dogs have the power to find the presence of cancer in humans just by smelling them. Dogs have been found to know just by smell that someone near them cancer. The studies on whether dogs would be able to sniff and tell if a person has Covid-19 had stemmed from this. And to ascertain this as a fact, they tested multiple dogs by making them sniff multiple sweat samples.

The animals were trained to sniff samples of human sweat. And if the samples had coronavirus infections, they were made to sit. The dogs were trained rigorously, to sniff and immediately sit if the virus was detected. Akin to training them sniff out explosives, professionals had worked with the dogs to sniff and sit when they detected the virus. The samples that were tested for virus by the dogs who were made to stand in front of cones set up with sweat samples.

Dogs made to sniff sweat samples to find out

Sweat samples were collected from armpits, the back of the neck and used face masks. This was done to show that samples can be collected from various body sites.

As part of the studies, dogs were made to sniff sweat samples collected from 355 human volunteers. The result was that the dogs’ findings were 97 percent accurate. Further, they were 100 percent accurate in detecting Covid-19 in people who had not been showing any symptoms.

Though the findings are mightily impressive, the health arena still faces a dilemma. And, that is the shortage of trained dogs for this kind of an exercise.