A new UK study has shown that sniffer dogs are quicker than rapid tests in detecting cases of Covid-19. Trained dogs can quickly identify the 'distinctive odor' in coronavirus infected people, the study says, adding that this method is effective in identifying even cases at early stages.
Trained dogs could soon be deployed at airports following the finding, the Daily Mail reported.
An NGO called Medical Detection Dogs has been giving training to dogs to detect Covid-19 scent. The researchers used more than 3,500 body odor samples, mainly consisting of socks and t-shirts sourced from the public and NHS staff, to train the dogs.
"The advantage of using this method is being able to detect COVID-19 with incredible speed and good accuracy among large groups of people, even in asymptomatic cases. This really could help us get back to doing the things we love sooner, safely and with less disruption, such as helping to reduce queuing times at border points or sporting events," said Prof. James Logan, who led the project.
Dogs will not Entirely Replace PCR Tests
However, Logan reiterated that dogs will not entirely replace PCR tests but that their effectiveness lies in their being quicker than conventional tests to get the result. While PCR is the gold-standard test, dogs hold a major advantage and that is that they are quick. 300 people can be screened in under 30 minutes by two dogs, which is the equivalent of a plane load of passengers, without adding any extra time to their journey," he added.
The research shows that the dogs about 94 percent accurate in detecting Covid-19 cases through scent.
300 Passengers Can be Screened in 30 Minutes
Scientists from the University of Durham and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), are exploring the option of deploying sniffer dogs at airports in order to streamline Covid-19 screening.
According to them, two dogs can screen up to 300 passengers in as little as 30 minutes. The dogs underwent eight weeks of training before they were able to detect the virus in people. The trained dog breeds include Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Labrador x Retrievers.
"We hope this research will enable the deployment of Covid dogs here in the UK and overseas... at travel hubs such as airports, perhaps theatres, stadiums, workplaces and other public venues," said Dr Clare Guest, Chief Scientific Officer of Medical Detection Dogs.