Adding more to their already amazing selves, dogs have proved themselves to be incredibly accurate at recognizing COVID-19, with their super-sensitive sniffing.
A research carried out by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany, concluded that dogs are unbelievably accurate in detecting the virus. Researchers led eight military-trained sniffer dogs to recognize smells associated with SARS-CoV-2, using saliva and phlegm as samples. After getting trained for one week, the dogs could differentiate between infected and non-infected samples with a whopping 96% accuracy! When broken down, the dogs provided 1157 correct responses for ‘positive’, 792 correct responses for ‘negative’, and 63 incorrect responses.
Though conducted as a pilot study, the promising results of the study suggests that in the future, sniffer dogs can be used to assist in the detection and management of the infections. The study was published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
Professor Holger A. Volk, department chair of small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Germany, explained in a statement, that these introductory discoveries designating that pre-trained sniffer dogs can discriminate infected and non-infected samples in a reliable, rapid, and accurate manner is absolutely exciting. He further emphasized on the importance of building a solid foundation for deep studies regarding the scent-identification capability of dogs, and that if they are able to discriminate smells coming from various disease time-points, and clinical phenotypes.
Dogs have this exceptionally great ability to identify scents, thanks to their finely tuned nose with 200 to 300 million olfactory receptors, contrary to around 5 million receptors found in the human nose. Dogs can detect chemical compounds that are referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When diseases alter the metabolic processes of the body, different VOCs get produced and they enter the bloodstream, getting eventually excreted via breath or urine.
Although it’s not that clear on how this knowledge should be taken into action, scientists suggest that it could be a good alternative to be used in countries that struggle to afford enough diagnostic tests. Although the full potential of this initiative is yet to be discovered, this can be effectively used for mass detection of infected people.