Can Dogs Detect Corona Virus?

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect us, scientists from all over the world are working round the clock to develop real-time and rapid identification techniques for detecting SARS-CoV-2 (COVID virus) infected people in order to break the infection chain. They are working tirelessly on any and all potential research. Also, they are embarking on one in which our four-legged friends, aka sniffer dogs, can detect virus-infected individuals. Just think about it! If that happens, we’ll have won the battle against corona virus halfway through!

We will be able to scan and detect COVID-19 positive people with much less effort and resources. It will be easier to screen a large number of people at crowded places such as airports and stadiums to control the pandemic as compared to conventional testing methods such as RT-PCR.

So, can dogs really sniff out the COVID virus? You’ll be overwhelmed to know that the answer is yes! Studies from all around the globe say that experts have discovered that dogs can detect the imprints of scents left behind by some volatile organic compounds produced during respiratory infections with high precision. Let’s take a closer look at some intriguing studies and their findings that strengthen this possibility.

Studies suggest that dogs can detect corona virus

Most of us are already aware of the fact that dogs have an extremely powerful sense of smell due to their intricate nose structure. And they can detect smells that even humans can’t discern. Moreover, dogs have already been trained to detect explosives and various other diseases like cancer in the past. So why not corona virus, which is wreaking havoc on the world?

According to a study done by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and collaborators, nine trained dogs (eight Labrador retrievers and a Belgian Malinois) identified the urine samples of COVID positive patients with 96% accuracy. However, these trained sniffer dogs couldn’t rule out false negatives with the same accuracy.

The findings of another study done by the researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and collaborators reported that six trained dogs could successfully identify the odor samples of COVID positive patients with 94% accuracy and could detect negative samples with 92% accuracy. According to the researchers, these dogs were trained to detect the samples of corona virus by using a positive reinforcement method. The dogs were rewarded when they pointed their noses at the correct samples.

But isn’t it impressive that both these studies imply that trained dogs can identify the infected individuals with about 95% accuracy, whereas conventional RT-PCR has an accuracy of 97.2%? That means, when compared to RT-PCR, our dogs detect the virus with remarkably similar accuracy and at a fraction of the expense!

Does that mean dogs can replace PCR machines?

Not yet. Although these studies show that dogs can effectively detect the corona virus, these studies are based on small data sets and they require large-scale studies to scale up. Moreover, a conventional test is still needed for the confirmation of these identified samples as of now. As a result, we can’t say that dogs can replace RT-PCR machines for detecting corona virus just yet. But they could be promising and save us a lot of time screening samples.

Our canine-friends are truly a blessing to us as they are always around to help us, but this concept of them detecting corona virus is just absolutely breathtaking, isn’t it?