Certain trained dogs have the ability to sniff out diseases like cancer, malaria, and viral infections, and now German researchers say trained dogs can sniff out coronavirus infections.
A new study conducted by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover found that if properly trained, dogs were able to discriminate between human saliva samples infected with SARS-CoV-2 and non-infected samples with a 94% success rate overall.
According to the researchers, the hope is this method of detection could one day be used in public areas such as airports, sporting events and other mass gatherings to help prevent future Covid-19 outbreaks.
To conduct the study, researchers trained eight dogs from Germany’s Armed Forces for one week. The trained dogs sniffed the saliva of more than 1,000 people that were either healthy or infected with the virus. Samples infected with Covid-19 were distributed at random and neither the dog handlers nor the researchers on site knew which ones were positive.
Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the university, says they think dogs are able to do this because the metabolic processes of an infected person “completely change.”
“We think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell of the metabolic changes that occur in those patients,” she says.
While more research is still needed, Von Koeckritz-Blickwede says the next step is to train dogs to differentiate Covid-19 samples from other diseases like influenza.