COVID-19: Scientists Are Training Dogs To Sniff Out the Coronavirus

  • 15 Oct 2020

Dogs are known for their incredible sense of smell, with cases reported of them detecting people infected with malaria, infectious bacteria, and even certain types of cancer. 

Now researchers around the world are harnessing the extraordinary olfactory system of canines, which is 10,000 times more powerful than that of humans, to sniff out the coronavirus. 

The Guardian reported about four COVID-19 sniffer dogs "employed" at Finland's Helsinki airport for the purpose. 

Passengers arriving at the airport are made dab their skin with a wipe, which is placed in a beaker next to others containing control scents. 

The dogs are then made to sniff out the solutions, and if they detect the virus, they either yelp, paw or lie down. The passenger is then made to take a swab test to verify the dog's finding. The canines which identify the correct samples are then rewarded with toys or food.

According to scientists, in theory, any breed of dog could be trained to sniff out the tell-tale chemicals produced by cells infected with the coronavirus, between two and 10 weeks. 

The chemicals are produced in patients who have active coronavirus infections, be it symptomatic or asymptomatic. 

A study by Prof Dominique Grandjean of the national veterinary school of Alfort in France, and his team, showed that eight dogs managed to sniff out sweat samples from COVID-19 patients on an average of 83%. 

Once peer-reviewed and cleared for implementation, Grandjean thinks the virus-sniffing dogs can be mobilised to schools, ports, airports, care homes, and other public venues. 

A similar research is underway in Germany, where dogs are trained to sniff saliva, rather than sweat samples. The animals reportedly managed to sniff out positive samples 83% of the time, and negative samples, an impressive 96% of the time. 

Dogs of the Shalaika breed - a cross between Arctic Nenets herding dogs known as Laikas and Southern Turkmen golden jackals, are also used in the airport in Moscow, Russia, to detect COVID-19 carrying patients. Russia is the fourth-worst hit country in the world, by the coronavirus, with more than 1.34 million people infected, and over 23,000 people dead from the disease. 

The global infection and death tally from the coronavirus has surpassed 38.7 million and 1.09 million deaths, respectively. 

Source: The Guardian,, The Moscow Times
Photo source: The Guardian,

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