COVID-19: Can sniffer dogs give more accurate results than RT-PCR test – here’s the answer

For long, sniffer dogs have been a very important part of the security services, helping security personnel to detect the presence of explosives, drugs, electronics, or invasive species. But now sniffer dogs are being used for a completely different purpose. 

Amid the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, now dogs can detect the virus in humans, a new study showed, paving the way for the broader use of sniffing canines in a global effort to contain the pandemic. According to a report in Bloomberg, the dogs’ detection reached 97% sensitivity in the French study. The sniffing ability to identify positive samples was also 91% specific, which rates the dogs’ ability to identify negatives. 

What is stunning though is the fact that statistically, that sensitivity rating beats that of many 15-minute antigen tests, which tend to be better at ruling out infection than at finding it. 

The scientists who worked on this project or the government of France has not conveyed if, after these encouraging results, these virus-sniffing dogs could be more widely deployed in airports, train stations, or wherever crowds amass to screen people. 

The Bloomberg report states that in July 2020, German researchers showed trained dogs were able to distinguish between saliva sampled from people infected with the virus and those who were not more than 90% of the time. 

Timeline of the trial 

The study was conducted between March 16 and April 9 at France’s National Veterinary School in Maisons Alfort near Paris. 

For this study, 335 human volunteers were selected. In an RT-PCR test, 109 were found positive among the volunteers. 

Scientists collected sweat samples from the armpits of these participants using cotton pads. 

These samples were then locked into jars and given to at least two different dogs for sniffing and none had prior contact with the volunteers.  

Nine dogs participated, and the researchers didn’t know which samples were positive. 

The main thing is that dogs were able to do this kind of test in minutes, whereas the other COVID-19 tests take a longer time to give results. 

Meanwhile, Finland, Dubai, and Switzerland have started training dogs to sniff out infections. 

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