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Dogs Pick Up the Scent of Covid-19, Initial Study Finds

Researchers find dogs could sniff out Covid-19 after 6-8 weeks of training.

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Six dogs detected the smell of the coronavirus on clothing and masks in a Phase 1 trial by scientists, CNN reports.

Teresa Lett | Getty Images

The collaborative study between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Durham University and the group Medical Detection Dogs found the canines’ sensitivity rate in smelling was 82% to 94% under controlled conditions.

James Logan, who led the testing, says the results are encouraging. "Dogs could detect Covid with incredible speed and accuracy --- even if a person was asymptomatic."

Related: New York Launches First Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Passport

Chemical analysis has found a "distinct" smell associated with the virus and researchers are working to identify the chemicals that make up the odor.     

The dogs could also tell if someone didn’t have Covid-19. That "specificity rate" also ranged between 76% to 92%.  

Study authors still say the PCR test is the “gold standard” for detecting the virus but suggest that dogs could offer a faster and simpler way to screen people in high-traffic areas --- or prevent individuals from going to crowded venues. 

Related: COVID-19 Will Fuel the Next Wave of Innovation

The six pooches who particpated in the study included Golden Retrievers, Labradors and a Cocker Spaniel, all between the ages of  4 and 6 years old. 

Phase 2 of the study will test the dogs’ detection abilities on people actually infected with the virus rather than items of clothing. 

Related: How to Navigate the Post-Covid Landscape