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Role of sniffer dogs in detecting Covid-19

Date: 27 May 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous


A new research has been successful in finding the efficiency of sniffer dogs to accurately detect Coronavirus infections in humans.



Various animals, including dogs have been trained to identify objects using their sniffing ability. Researchers believe that they can be trained to detect Coronavirus infection as well.



  • Initial studies have shown that dogs can isolate people infected with Coronavirus from a crowd. They will have to undergo RT-PCR test to verify.

  • The researchers made use of Labrador retrievers and Belgian Malinoi dog breeds to train them using live samples.

  • These dogs were successful in identifying urine samples of individuals infected with SARS CoV-2 virus. Their accuracy was about 96 percent.

  • The biggest positive of the study was their ability to detect false negative was lower than that of false positive.


Smell of infection

  • Waste products from people have a distinct smell. Human fluids such as saliva, urine and sweat give out various chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).

  • Their chemical composition varies if they are infected. Infection creates a distinct odour, which helps in segregation.

  • Toxic compounds formed when virus infects a healthy cell will have to leave the body as metabolites or catabolites.


Capacity of dogs

  • Dogs have a unique and complex nose structure that allows them to distinguish smell more accurately than humans.

  • Earlier studies were also conducted that showed dogs had the ability to detect bladder cancers, Malaria, Parkinson’s disease etc using various source such as urine and sweat.


Alternative to tests?

  • Researchers say that this is just a complement to existing tests and cannot be used as a substitute. Dogs were able to identify both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

  • In a mass setting, dogs can be the first level of segregator. Confirmed patients can be then made to undergo detailed testing.

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