Dogs Can Smell COVID-19, Scientists Say

Instead of using a COVID-19 self-test kit, your furry friend at home may give you an answer with just a little bit of training.

Dogs' remarkable sense of smell much outperforms that of humans. Their sense of smell is their primary sense, enabling them to locate the source of an odor, which is essential for detecting food, danger, or potential mates for reproduction and for absorbing current and historical information about their immediate surroundings.

According to an assessment of a rising number of trials, they may now be ready to more accurately identify COVID-19 than current diagnostics.

During the previous two years, "it went from four papers to 29 peer-reviewed studies — that includes more than 400 scientists from over 30 countries and 31,000 samples," says co-author Tommy Dickey, who worked with Heather Junqueira of BioScent, Inc.

The research discovered that trained canines are just as good, if not even more so, at detecting COVID-19 than the gold-standard RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing used in hospitals and clinics. Dogs can still recognize it even when cold and flu viruses cover up COVID.

How can dogs smell COVID-19?

Compared to humans, who have five to six million olfactory receptors, dogs have hundreds of millions. One-third of their brain is devoted to processing smells. The study reveals that just 5% of the human brain is devoted to it.

In 10.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools, per Dickey, they can detect the equivalent of one drop of an odorous material. Compared to scientific instruments, this is roughly three orders of magnitude better.

In several trials, dogs could identify COVID-19 in asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals.

They're far more efficient, Dickey added. He said the RT-PCR test is no longer the industry standard, according to one of the authors we mention in the report. It's the canine.

He said, "They can give you the 'yes' or 'no' within seconds, if they're directly smelling you."

It's also possible for a trained dog to swiftly sniff a person and sit to show that they scent COVID-19. Some instances, like a dog sniffing a person's sweat sample, take a little longer.

Early in the pandemic, when swift findings may have immediately supplied information to assist in stemming the spread of sickness, having the capacity to sniff out the virus quickly would have been crucial.

The authors claim that beagles, basset hounds, and coonhounds are the best breeds of scent dogs for this task.

But with some instruction and a few weeks, other canines, even pups, can perform the job. Dogs of both sexes, including purebreds and mixed types, are supplied.

One study found that a mistreated pit bull terrier labeled a "problem" could be successfully trained to identify COVID-19.

According to Dickey, there has been a fair amount of research, but many people still view it as a curiosity. Finland and Colombia, two smaller nations, were more accepting of canine field research. Dickey and Junqueira say scent dogs have a legitimate position in the diagnostic toolbox.

The team concludes: "Perhaps, most importantly, we argue that the impressive international quality and quantity of COVID scent dog research described in our paper for the first time, demonstrates that medical scent dogs are finally ready for a host of mainstream medical applications."


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