But now, a new study has claimed that these sniffer dogs can help prevent the spread of Coronavirus by detecting SARS-CoV2, the virus behind Covid-19.
A new study has found that these canines can be 88 per cent accurate in sniffing the deadly virus, much faster than the conventional RT-PCR test. The study was conducted by a group of scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University.
During the study, the researchers found that the dog screening, followed by swab testing, picked up 91 per cent of infections. While even the quickest COVID detection test takes at least 15 minutes to show the result, sniffer dogs can sniff out the disease in a few seconds.
The researchers concluded that two sniffer dogs can together screen 300 people in half an hour. This could make the sniff test “a suitable method for mass screening”, Prof Logan at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, was quoted as saying.
Sniffer dogs can be used for mass screening at airports or at busy train stations to help prevent a super-spreading event.
A canine screening trial to see whether specialist medical sniffer dogs can detect coronavirus in humans began last year, by the charity Medical Detection Dogs, where six dogs were trained to recognise the smell produced by people with Covid-19, but undetectable to the human nose.
These sniffer dogs were given worn socks, face masks and t-shirts of various materials. Some of the people in the negative group had common cold viruses, to make sure the dogs were able to distinguish Covid from other respiratory infections.
The dogs were able to sniff out the disease even when it was caused by different variants, and when the person had no symptoms or only had very low levels of the virus in their system, according to a Bloomberg report. The results “further proved that dogs are one of the most reliable biosensors for detecting the odour of human disease.”
During a similar study conducted in France, experts found that dogs can detect up to 97 percent of COVID cases using their sniffing power. The study was conducted between 16 March and 9 April by scientists at the National Veterinary School, France.
At least 335 people were selected for this study. 109 of them were found COVID positive in the RT-PCR test, After this, the sweat samples of these people were taken.
These samples were then placed in jars and given to sniff two different types of dogs. Experts found that trained sniffer dogs have the ability to detect samples of virus-infected and non-infected people.
However, the researchers recommended that dogs should be used as an additional screening tool alongside more conventional COVID tests. In view of the success of the research, several countries like Finland, Dubai and Switzerland have already started training the dogs to sniff the COVID infection.