Dogs may soon help screen people for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
According to Good News Network, group of researchers in France have found that dogs can be trained to sniff out the disease with surprisingly high accuracy. They trained 8 Belgian Malinois shepherds to identify the disease in the sweat of humans. The dogs correctly signaled COVID-19-positive humans in 95% of test cases, with four of the canines achieving a perfect score.
As Live Science reports, VOCs released by cancerous cells have a unique odor which dogs can detect. Dog noses are highly sensitive, with as many as 300 million olfactory sensors sending signals back to the brain. In contrast, humans only have 6 million.
It takes about 6 months to train a dog to recognize scents this subtle, but it can be done, and is being done, not just in France but in the U.S. Researchers at the the Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine are training their own eight dogs to detect COVID-19 in human saliva and urine samples.
The experiment will last three weeks long. After imprinting the odor with a batch of positive samples, each of the dogs will be tested with samples from people with and without the disease.
“Scent detection dogs can accurately detect low concentrations of volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOCs, associated with various diseases such as ovarian cancer, bacterial infections, and nasal tumors. These VOCs are present in human blood, saliva, urine, or breath,” says Cynthia Otto, professor of Working Dog Sciences and Sports Medicine and director of Penn Vet’s Working Dog Center. “The potential impact of these dogs and their capacity to detect COVID-19 could be substantial. This study will harness the dog’s extraordinary ability to support the nation’s COVID-19 surveillance systems, with the goal of reducing community spread.”
Dogs may prove a cost-effective and easily scalable testing method in countries like the U.S. that are still fighting the spread of COVID-19. They could help technicians test more people, faster, and with reliable results.
Learn more in the video below:
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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