A recent study shows that dogs can be trained to trace more than 90 percent of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases. Even when cases are asymptomatic dogs able to detect most of the time. Researchers hoped that this could help in replacing the requirement of quarantine of newly arrived ones. Previously we saw scientists who trained bees to detect COVID-19 using their sense of smell in seconds.
Dogs have a unique sense of smell that is being used for security purposes and in many others. Dogs have already shown that by using this ability they can figure out different disorders which include cancer, malaria, and epilepsy.
As per a new study, dogs can identify the different odours of the COVID-19 virus and the accuracy rate of detection is 94 percent. The research is preceded by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with Durham University. They want to study whether dogs can trace the different odour of chemical compounds linked to someone who is covid positive but doesn’t have symptoms, thus asymptomatic cases.
The charity Medical Detection Dogs took 3,500 odour samples that are given by the members of the public and NHS staff. The collected samples include clothes and face masks from peoples having covid with mild or symptomatic SARS-CoV-2.
Such samples, with socks of 200 COVID-19 were collected and arranged in the lab for further testing. Six dogs that had been trained reached the double-blind trial phase to trace whether the chemical compound is present or not. Dogs and even researchers are unknown which sample is positive and which one is negative so that the risk of bias can be removed.
Interestingly dogs were able to trace the specific odour even from people who are asymptomatic and with balanced accuracy for both high and low viral loads. The research showed that dogs were successfully able to trace between 94 and 82 percent of SARS-CoV-2 samples It also has been resulted that these dogs can be used at airports and in different ports as two dogs can detect and investigate 300 people in 30 minutes.
There is a need for training dogs not to detect false COVID-19 tests, in a habit of getting rewards, and for obtaining treats even if there were no positive samples in overall samples.
The chief scientific officer at Medical Detection Dogs, Dr. Claire Guest said to SkyNews that, “We’ve been able to get very good quality samples in front of the dogs in an order they can learn and memorize this smell very effectively and they have been even able to do it with asymptomatic and mild symptomatic samples also.”
She further conveyed that “This is showing to be a disease with a different odor that dogs can trace and the fact they can find it on a 50 piece of sock that was worn some time ago when it was presented to the dog gives us very much hope that the dogs will be able to do this with even better results when they smell an individual walking past.”
Authors hoped that it could replace the need of travelers to quarantine as it interrupts every arrival even when arrived peoples have no covid.
As reported by ScienceAlert, Co-author James Logan said that “The dogs are significantly quicker than another test like PCR. What we are suggesting is that dogs need to do the screening process first and then those who were represented as positive should receive complementary PCR tests.”
Dogs can never take the position of PCR test for COVID-19 but can be very useful at airports where they could quickly investigate the passengers and detected ones can require confirmatory PCR tests and have to quarantine themselves until the result came out. This not only reduces the necessity for everyone to quarantine and go through PCR tests but also reduces the workloads on health workers.
The biggest challenge is that training dogs require time and requires the clothing of COVID-19 infected and uninfected individuals. The research is underway to identify which odour molecules dogs are detecting so that a “pseudo-odour” can be manufactured which results in the number of dogs that can be trained easily.