Dogs are able to detect the presence of coronavirus by sniffing human saliva, according to a new study

Dogs with just one week of training were able to identify people infected with the novel coronavirus disease with a 94 percent success rate, according to a new study by a German veterinary university.

a person and a dog on a leash: Marcelo Hernández / Getty

© Provided by people
Marcelo Hernández / Getty

The study, conducted by Hannover University of Veterinary Medicine in cooperation with the German Armed Forces, found that if properly trained, dogs could detect the disease in the saliva of patients with COVID-19.

To conduct the study, the researchers trained eight dogs for a week, where they sniffed the saliva of more than 1,000 people who were healthy or infected with the virus. The canines were able to successfully determine the difference between the saliva samples of the patients who tested positive for the disease and those who tested negative.

“In the presentations of 1,012 automated, randomized samples, the dogs achieved an overall average detection rate of 94% with 157 correct indications of positive, 792 correct rejections of negative, 33 false positives and 30 false negatives,” the study authors shared. .

RELATED: The surprising ways animals and the environment have recovered amid the coronavirus pandemic

“Dogs dedicate a lot of mental capacity to interpret smells. They have more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity compared to 6 million people, “according to VCA Animal Hospitals.” The area of ​​the canine brain dedicated to odor analysis is approximately 40 times larger than the comparable part of the nasal cavity. human brain. In fact, it is estimated that dogs can smell 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people. “

a person and a dog on a leash: researchers say the detection method could one day be used in airports, sports stadiums or other public places of mass gatherings

© Marcelo Hernández / Getty
The researchers say the detection method could one day be used in airports, sports stadiums or other public places for mass gatherings.

They added: “Unlike humans, dogs have an additional olfactory tool that increases their ability to smell. The organ serves as a secondary olfactory system designed specifically for chemical communication.”

But how do COVID-19 canines specifically smell?

“We believe this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a sick patient have completely changed,” Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the aforementioned university, said in a YouTube video about the study. “We believe that dogs are capable of detecting a specific odor.”

While more research is still needed, Von Koeckritz-Blickwede says the next step is to train dogs to differentiate COVID-19 samples from other diseases.

RELATED VIDEO: These Baby Animals Made Their Big Debut Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

The study authors said the findings are preliminary and more research needs to be done to help develop more reliable detection methods for patients infected with COVID-19.

The study also notes that the detection method could one day be used in public areas such as airports, sports events, country borders, or other mass gatherings. It could also serve as an alternative to, or in addition to, laboratory tests to help prevent further spread of the virus.

As information on the coronavirus pandemic changes rapidly, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data on our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise funds for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraising event to support everything from front-line responders to families in need, as well as organizations that help communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

Video: At least 36 patients and employees test positive for coronavirus at Baystate Medical Center (CBS Boston)

Keep reading