A German research team says that dogs can detect COVID-19 with a high degree of precision. The team, led by Hannover University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo), says it was able to train dogs to identify the disease after a week of training. If the dogs are able to detect COVID-19, TiHo says they could be deployed at places like borders and airports.
Al Jazeera reported on TiHo’s claims, which are based on a study recently published in the journal, BMC infectious diseases. In the study, researchers from TiHo et al. They say they trained eight “specialized sniffer dogs” to detect saliva or tracheobronchial secretions from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
According to the study, sniffer dogs were able to detect COVID-19 in samples with an average sensitivity of 83% and a specificity of 96%. That is, the dogs adequately identified approximately 83% of the positive samples and 96% of the negative samples. Dogs were able to do so thanks to the fact that they can detect volatile organic compounds produced during respiratory infections.
For the randomized study, the dogs analyzed 1,012 samples and correctly identified 157 positive and 792 negative samples. Dogs erroneously identified 33 negative samples as positive, and 30 that were positive as negative. As a result, the dogs had an overall detection rate of 94% (plus or minus 3.4%).
There is evidence that this method works. For example, in a 2006 study, dogs were able to detect cancer in people based solely on breath samples. In that study, five dogs were able to detect breast cancer with 88% accuracy and lung cancer with 99% accuracy.
In the future, the researchers appear to be hoping to deploy COVID-19 sniffing dogs. However, the researchers note that although this was a double-blind, controlled study, more evidence is still needed. The researchers wrote in their conclusion that this study “had important limitations” that need to be clarified in future studies. One of the first steps now, for example, is to see if dogs can distinguish between COVID-19 and other influenza-like illnesses.
Featured Image: TiHoVideos