COVID-sniffing dogs found to be more accurate than lateral flow tests

Dogs are truly man’s best friend, and they could emerge as the heroes of the pandemic.

COVID-sniffing dogs
© Unsplash
COVID-sniffing dogs

A French study has found that dogs are able to identify COVID-positive cases better than Lateral Flow Tests (LFT).

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LFTs are now the most commonly used form of testing in the UK, but their level of accuracy has been widely debated. A Cochrane review found that these devices can catch 72% of people who are infected with the virus, and also have symptoms. But that rate drops significantly to 58% for asymptomatic COVID patients.

Compared to these uncertain results, this French trial has found that dogs can sniff out the virus with an outstanding 97% accuracy.

The trial

France’s national veterinary school and the clinical research unit of Necker-Cochin hospital in Paris, conducted the study during March and April. There were 335 participants between the age of six and 76, along with nine furry volunteers. Researchers asked the participants to press a cotton pad between their armpits for two minutes, and the pads were collected and sealed in jars. The jars were then given to at least two of the dogs by handlers who were also unaware of which samples were positive. The individuals who took part in the experiment also got PCR tests done.

Of the 335 participants, 109 tested positive with PCR testing and the dogs detected 97% of those cases. They were also able to identify COVID-negative cotton pads with a 91% success rate. Professor Jean-Marc Tréluyer told Agence-France Presse.

These are excellent results, comparable with those of a PCR test.
They could help identify those people who should undergo a full viral test and—because the dogs’ response is so quick—facilitate mass testing.

COVID-sniffers in Helsinki

This may be the first trial to publish its findings, but researchers all over the world have been studying how to use sniffer dogs to detect the virus. In fact, last year a team from the University of Helsinki deployed four COVID-sniffing canines in Helsinki-Vantaa airport, and they too discovered an accuracy rate of nearly 100%. Anna Hielm-Björkman, who was in charge of the trail, said:

It’s very promising.
If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places” such as hospitals, care homes and at sporting and cultural events.
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