Story at a glance
- Researchers at several universities have conducted pilot training programs using dogs to detect COVID-19.
- In a new study, trained dogs were able to identify whether or not patients had COVID-19 more than three out of four times.
- The dogs were more often able to identify patients without COVID-19 than they were able to identify patients with COVID-19.
An elite group of eight highly trained detection dogs could be a special weapon against the coronavirus pandemic.
Researchers in Finland and Pennsylvania first debuted pilot programs as early as April, using scent detection dogs to detect the differences between samples from infected and noninfected patients.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW
In a new study by German researchers, eight detection dogs were able to tell the difference between samples of infected and noninfected individuals with average diagnostic sensitivity of 82.63 percent and specificity of 96.35 percent. In translation, diagnostic sensitivity is the ability to correctly identify those with the disease, while specificity is the ability of the test to correctly identify those without the disease.
While the dogs were correct on an average of more than three-fourths of the time, they were better able to detect patients without the disease than those with the disease. This means that there are still some limitations to using scent detection dogs as a method of testing, and a nasal swab test is still the most reliable form of knowing whether someone does or doesn't have coronavirus.
But scent detection dogs could possibly provide a reasonable level of comfort for bars, restaurants or other venues, where there’s not enough time to wait for a test result. The study also pointed out that in countries with limited access to diagnostic tests, detection dogs could also be used for mass detection of infected people.
Of course, this job isn't without risks. There have been several reports of dogs contracting the coronavirus, and while it's not clear whether this can then be transmitted to humans, it's unclear the effect that will have on the health of the dog and its ability to detect the disease in others.
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