Scientists in Germany have trained dogs to sniff out people with coronavirus. And they are accurate 94% of the time, reports Bloomberg. The science comes from researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany.
“We think that this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient is completely changed,” Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the university, said in a video statement posted by the university on YouTube. “We think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell produced” by the metabolic process. See the video below.
Despite dogs being used to sniff out explosives, cancer, criminals and drugs, “people have not really realized the potential a dog could have to detect diseased from non-diseased patients,” says Holger Volk, head of the small animal clinic at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, in the video.
The method could be employed in “public areas such as airports, sport events, borders or other mass gatherings.
Since the COVID-19 samples were completely randomized, neither the dog handlers nor the researchers knew which samples were positive and which ones weren’t positive.The researchers therefore guarded against the “Clever Hans” effect, where animals can appear to be solving complex problems, but in fact are taking cues from their master, hard for people to perceive, but easy for animals.
“These preliminary findings indicate that trained detection dogs can identify respiratory secretion samples from hospitalised and clinically diseased SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals by discriminating between samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected patients and negative controls. This data may form the basis for the reliable screening method of SARS-CoV-2 infected people,” the researchers sum up in their online report.