Research suggests that sniffer dogs can detect coronavirus infections with outstanding accuracy. The United Arab Emirates now employs 38 sniffer dogs, including trained dogs from the Pest County Search and Rescue Service, at its airports.
Dogs’ noses have approximately 300 million scent receptors, while humans only bear 5−6 million. We have been utilising this powerful and superior sense of smell for decades to detect firearms, explosives, and drugs. Scientists have also trained dogs to detect various types of cancer, low blood sugar, and even malaria.
In the past two years, researchers have turned their attention to finding the most effective ways of detecting the signs of a COVID-19 infection, writes Nature. They started to train dogs to smell samples and alert by sitting or pawing the floor when they detect the distinctive odour of the virus. In 2020, a number of airports in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and Lebanon took part in an experiment to test the accuracy of this method. First, specially trained sniffing dogs sniffed different sweat samples from passengers, then they checked the results against conventional tests. According to data,
“dogs in Finland and Lebanon have identified cases days before conventional tests picked up the virus, suggesting that they can spot infection before symptoms start”.
This was also confirmed by further studies. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with Durham University and the charity Medical Detection Dogs, found that
bio-detection dogs can smell if someone is infected with COVID-19 with an accuracy rate of 94%. (Other studies claim that this accuracy rate can reach even 98%.) Canines are also able to detect the signs of the virus even in the case of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals.
The United Arab Emirates currently has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports, including specially trained German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, and Border Collies.
At one of the main airports in Abu Dhabi, the police are working with sniffer dogs that were trained in Hungary,
László Balázs, the president of the Pest County Search and Rescue Service, told Forbes. The dogs trained at this service have proved their ability in numerous Hungarian and foreign rescue operations – for example, during the search for survivors after earthquakes –, and there is a great demand for Hungarian sniffer dogs abroad.
Studies have shown that dogs are able to screen hundreds of people within an hour. Of course, researchers do not yet know exactly how long they can maintain this performance. In practice, individuals screened by dogs are still separated for further testing. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that
dogs could help to control the pandemic as they can screen people in busy places, such as airports or sports stadiums, faster and cheaper than conventional testing methods.
Source: forbes.hu, nature.com, news.sky.com