We all know the adage that “dogs are a man’s best friend.” They are great companions for humans showering love from their adorable paws. Dogs also tend to be excellent at following instructions making them ideal to train for different things.
You’ve certainly heard about sniffer dogs used by security agencies worldwide, and then there are the guard and service dogs, which protect your homes and are able to people with disabilities.
Now, keeping up with the times, a new study says that dogs can detect people who are positive with the coronavirus infection, and that too with 94 percent accuracy.
Researchers from the London School of Tropical Medicine have shown proof-of-concept that dogs can detect SARS-CoV-2.
The study if applicable just might turn the next major turning point when it comes to air travel and quarantine rules. It will also help save a lot of time and effort for authorities, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
How Do Dogs Detect Coronavirus?
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Researchers said they wanted to see if dogs could detect a distinctive odour given off from chemical compounds, which is typically associated with someone who is Covid positive. An asymptomatic patient also gives off the odour, which the dogs are able to detect.
The study concluded that the canines are able to sniff out the patients with the Covid-19 virus thanks to their remarkable sense of smell.
It should not come as completely surprising as dogs can also detect other diseases like cancer and malaria. However, the high accuracy rate makes this a promising experiment.
How Do Dogs Detect Coronavirus: Training Explained
Researchers trained the dogs to indicate either a presence or absence of the Covid-19 chemical compound. Six dogs had been trained in a lab to indicate the virus using about 200 socks belonging to Covid-19 cases.
Researchers then presented the samples to the dogs who had to identify which of the items are Covid-19 positive. The study concluded with a success rate of 94 percent and 82 percent of Covid-19 samples.
How Did The Dogs Avoid False Positives?
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The study also factored in the possibility of dogs detecting false Covid-19 positives and trained them accordingly. Researchers altered the canines’ reward system by giving them treats when there were no Covid-19 samples in a test.
Explaining this, Claire Guest, from the school’s Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, said, “This means that the dog fully understands and gets a reward for a correct negative as well as a correct positive.”
Faster COVID-19 Detection With The Trained Dogs
The dog detection method coupled with traditional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, may be able to detect 91 percent of cases in airports. This will result in a 2.24 times lower rate of transmission than with PCR tests alone, say the study’s researchers.
If implemented at airports, the dog detection method could negate the need for travellers to quarantine.
James Logan, co-author of the study says, “The key thing is that dogs are significantly quicker than other tests. What we’re suggesting is that dogs would give the first initial screening, and then those (arrivals) that were indicated as positive would then receive a complimentary PCR test.”
Statistically, less than one percent in a plane of 300 will be carrying the Covid-19 infection. However, the current rules require all 300 passengers to quarantine for at least a week.
However, if trained dogs sniff the potential patients beforehand, a total of 35 people would be identified as positive under this theory. This figure will further reduce once the PCR tests results are out after a couple of hours, which should see less than three people testing positive.
How Do Dogs Detect Coronavirus: Still Early Stages For The Study
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While the study is a major green flag to resume air travel, it still needs to be peer-reviewed. The dogs will need to consistently detect asymptomatic infections. This is extremely important before the government deploys our four-legged friends at airports and railway stations.
The study, if applicable, promises to transform our travel experience in a big way. We certainly would like adorable dogs greeting us at airports rather than the “nosy” PCR tests.