For centuries, humans have used their sense of smell as a tool for medical diagnoses and, since the 1980s, dogs have also been employed to use their highly-developed sense of smell. Starting with sniffing out malignant tumors for bladder, colorectal, and other cancers and then progressing beyond the field of oncology into research studies for epilepsy, diabetes, and even Parkinson’s.
Maybe dogs could detect Covid-19 too? Perhaps sweat from someone infected with COVID-19 has a unique scent? Researchers at the national veterinary school in Alfort, near Paris, decided to investigate. They trained eight Belgian Malinois shepherd dogs to identify the smell of COVID-19 in the sweat of infected individuals and the dogs’ success rate was exceptional, correctly diagnosing an average of 95% of sample, with four of the dogs successfully identifying a positive sweat sample 100% of the time.
Many of the countries which have had the greatest success maintaining low numbers of Covid case numbers have done so with widespread use of testing. Using dogs, according to the scientists, would greatly increase the speed at which people could be tested, and they resolved to move forward with subsequent studies in case of resurgent numbers as lockdowns throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
For this Coronavirus study, the researchers collected 168 samples of armpit-perspiration from Covid-positive individuals and called on the services of Belgian Malinois dogs that had already been trained to detect explosives, colorectal cancer, and survivors during search and rescue missions.
Jars containing samples of Covid-positive perspiration were placed in a line, with funnels inserted to enable the canines to put their noses close to the sample. Trials were done with 3, 4, 6, and 7 jars, with only one containing a positive sample.
“The results of this first proof of concept study demonstrate that COVID-19 positive people produce an axillary sweat that has a different odor, for the detection dog, than COVID-19 negative persons,” the study says.
“In a context where, in many countries worldwide, diagnostic tests are lacking in order to set up a mass detection of COVID-19 contaminant people, we think it is important to explore the possibility of introducing dog olfactive detection as a rapid, reliable and cheap “tool” to either pre-test willing people or be a fast checking option in certain circumstances.”
Thus, further proving (not that any was really needed) dogs are man's best friend!
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