A new study from the Alford School of Veterinary Medicine in France shows that sniffer dogs can screen a person for neocoronavirus infection by sniffing human sweat, and are almost as effective as nucleic acid tests. Some commentators say the finding paves the way for more widespread use of sniffer dogs to detect infected people and thus contain outbreaks. It is also argued that the discovery is still in the experimental stage, and it remains to be seen whether it can be applied on a large scale in practice.
The study was reportedly conducted by the Alford School of Veterinary Medicine from March 16 to April 9. 335 people, ranging in age from 6 to 76 years, participated in the study, of whom 109 tested positive for nucleic acid as a control. An additional nine sniffer dogs, including Dutch shepherds, were involved in the trial and had no prior contact with the participants.
Notably, the research team did not allow the sniffer dogs to have direct contact with the subjects, but instead collected samples of the test subjects’ sweat on cotton pads, put them into special containers, and then gave them to at least two different sniffer dogs for identification.
The results showed that these dogs were 97% sensitive in identifying positive samples, which is better than many antigen tests that give results in 15 minutes. The dogs also had a 91 percent specificity for screening infected individuals, meaning that there was a low percentage of false positives.
“This is the first time dogs have been able to detect a viral disease in humans,” said Dominique Grandjean, a professor at the Alford School of Veterinary Medicine.
“Smell” the patient
It is reported that similar studies have been conducted in Germany, the United Kingdom and other countries, with similar results. In a research project led by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University on “New Crown Sniffer Dogs,” the dogs were nearly 95 percent accurate in screening for infected people and were said to be able to screen for asymptomatic infections.
The rationale for this type of research is based on the ability of trained dogs to recognize the “distinctive scent” of people with Newcastle.
For one thing, dogs are known to have a powerful sense of smell, allegedly because they have more than 300 million scent receptors, compared to about 5 million in humans. Dogs have also long been trained to detect odors associated with drugs or explosives. Previous studies have also shown that trained dogs can “diagnose” patients with diseases such as malaria by sniffing samples such as breath and swabs.
On the other hand, when the body is invaded by a new coronavirus, a volatile compound is produced, and trained dogs can find this unique scent “imprint” by sniffing secretions such as sweat and saliva.
“It’s not that coronaviruses have an odor. Rather, when a person is infected with a virus, their metabolism changes, their breathing changes, and trained dogs can detect these subtle changes.” Amesh Adaja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, explained, “So it’s not the virus that they detect, it’s the physiological changes that the virus causes.”
The World Health Organization is also coordinating research into the role of sniffer dogs. In a March report, the organization said that “new crown sniffer dogs” could be used as a complement to traditional diagnostic tools. Unlike traditional testing, which requires direct human contact and waiting at least 15 minutes for results, it is a low-cost, noninvasive way to screen large numbers of people in real time. According to WHO, one dog can screen 250 to 300 people per day.
Although the use of dogs to “diagnose” new coronary patients may seem surprising, there are more “mind-blowing” methods. According to one report, Koniku, a new U.S. technology company, is developing a “new crown sniffing robot. The technology allegedly fuses neurons with silicon chips in an attempt to create an “electronic nose”. And in the Netherlands, a team of researchers is training bees to detect the New Coronavirus, hoping to provide a faster and cheaper way to do so.
Remains to be seen
Researchers say that, in theory, the type of dog has little effect on whether it can become a “new coronavirus detection dog” and can essentially be trained in a matter of weeks. If the dog is already trained in detection, the training may be faster.
In addition, dogs are not only faster, cheaper, and less harmful than traditional testing methods such as temperature testing and nasopharyngeal swabs, but may even be more effective in screening for NICs.
So, according to the analysis, the latest findings mean that “new crown detection dogs” could be more widely deployed in airports, train stations or crowded places, just as they have been used to “detect” drugs and bombs.
There is also a strong market demand for this type of screening at major sporting, entertainment and tourism events, which could also help save medical resources and hopefully curb the spread of the virus, especially in places where the risk of infection is high and testing is limited. It is reported that the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Chile and other countries have arranged “anti-epidemic dogs” in the airport to detect new infected people.
But researchers say more research is needed to answer some unanswered questions, such as whether sniffer dogs can be confused by other viruses or vaccines, whether to ensure that this approach is still effective in large-scale practical applications, and how to ensure the safety of sniffer dogs ……
Therefore, it has been suggested that using dogs to screen for newly crowned patients could be used as an initial adjunct and combined with more advanced nucleic acid testing, imaging, and exposure history for a comprehensive assessment.
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