Aside from explosive devices, trained sniffer dogs can also detect coronavirus

July 30, 2020

Sniffer dogs, with little training, are capable of identifying positive samples of the novel coronavirus with up to 94% accuracy. A research team from the University of Hannover, Germany, who looked into the incredible sensitivity of dogs’ noses, hope that sniffer dogs can become a powerful screening tool in public spaces to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The team spent one week training eight specialised sniffer dogs to distinguish between samples infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19, and uninfected controls.Some 1,012 saliva and tracheobronchial samples were collected, with the dogs then tasked with identifying those that were infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The dogs correctly identified 157 positive samples and 792 negative samples, while incorrectly identifying 33 negatives and incorrectly rejecting 30 positives – making up an overall average detection rate of 94%.

“The results of the study are incredibly exciting,” said the HOD of Veterinary Medicine, Professor Holger Volk. “We have created a solid foundation for future studies to investigate what the dogs smell and whether they can also be used to differentiate between different types of illness or clinical phenotypes.”

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