Belgian scientists have successfully trained six dogs to detect the coronavirus in humans, according to microbiologist Chris Callewaert at Ghent University, who spoke to the Flemish public service VRT about the project.
Callewaert reported that dogs, which detect the virus by scent, are the ideal alternative to the coronavirus tests currently being used because they can test a large number of people very quickly, and are also much cheaper. The results from the dogs are also more reliable than a quick test, with them correctly identifying a person infected with the coronavirus in as many as 95 percent of cases.
1. How it works
Callewaert explained that the procedure involves taking swabs from people’s underarms, the neck, or arm, which are then given to the dogs for them to smell. The dogs are able to detect the unique odour of the reaction to the coronavirus in people’s immune systems, as the system responds to each virus with a specific combination of molecules. The reaction to the coronavirus has a different smell from the flu virus itself. The University of Ghent reports that the dogs can even detect the British, South African and Brazilian strains of the virus.
2. Potential uses
How and where the trained dogs will be used is still unknown, as is whether this type of dog training project will continue in other countries. However there are many possibilities for use, specifically at events and locations where there are a large number of people and therefore a risk of spreading the virus, from example airports to festivals and concerts to schools and universities, says Callewaert. At the moment the dogs can only test the samples indoors, however the plan is fro them to be trained further so that they can test freely among people.