Dog sniffs as good as RT-PCR? Research shows they could be

Can dogs smell Covid-19? A study from Finland shows that they can. And to be precise, especially if the infection is caused by the wild-type virus that is used to train them.

After training four dogs, researchers from the University of Helsinki tested 420 samples for which RT-PCR reports were already known. They also tested 303 arriving passengers at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport, Finland.

The study found an overall accuracy of 92% compared to RT-PCR tests. “Scent dogs trained on the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 virus also perfected the identification of other variants, although they are less precise, revealing their strong discriminatory power,” the study said. The study was recently published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

The Indian Army also trained two of its dogs to detect Covid-19 last year.

In the first part of the study, which was used for verification, dogs were able to accurately identify 92% of samples as either positive or negative. Failure to identify a COVID-19 positive sample was associated with SARS-CoV-2 variant status. The dogs correctly indicated… only 36% of the alpha variant samples, according to the study.

As for the real-life scenario at the airport, the dogs’ results matched the RT-PCR report of 296 out of 303 people, meaning an accuracy of 97.7%. The only drawback of the real-life study was that there were very few positive cases – only three of the 303 cases. RT-PCR positive samples at the airport. They were able to correctly identify 98.7% of them as positive.

At the time of the study – the real-world airport study was conducted between September 2020 and April 2021 – the variables were showing up in the country. The study said: “Since the variants did not appear in Finland at the time of training, only wild-type samples were used. Several contradictory results were associated with the new variant. In the future, operational work skills must be maintained through simultaneous training with samples of virus variants. emerging”.

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