Dogs can learn to detect COVID-19 by sniffing human sweat from armpits: Study

As scientists look for ways to rid the world of COVID-19, many are looking for new ways to test people for the coronavirus.

There are already dogs that sniff out drugs, weapons, and explosives. And there’s even dogs that can detect diseases and illnesses.

But could COVID-19 be next? According to a proof-of-concept study, it’s entirely possible to  train animals to detect the novel virus by sniffing human sweat.

The hope is that dogs can be a rapid prescreening in places such as airports.

For the study, published in the journals Plos, began in the summer. Researchers in France and Lebanon collected sweat samples from the armpits of 177 patients in four hospitals located in Paris and one in Beirut.

95 of those patients tested positive for the virus, while 82 tested negative.

Researchers wanted a mix of samples so that dogs would be challenged to pick the virus-positive ones.

Six dogs -- five Belgian Malinois and one Jack Russell terrier -- were put to the test to detect a positive COVID-19 sweat sample in a lineup that also contained negative and mock samples.

Per the study, the dogs can smell the scent produced by volatile organic compounds generated by catabolites, which is a substance produced by the replication of the virus that escapes through sweat.

The dogs underwent dozens of trails with a varying success rate. Two dogs, Jacky and Bella, who were trained in detecting colon cancer, had a 100% test rate for 68 tests.

They even repeatedly marked two negative patients as positive. The hospital ran additional testing on the patients and found the dogs were right in their diagnosis.

However, the study reveals there are limitations and further research is required. And the dogs are by no means meant to replace diagnostic testing.

"Even if trained dogs are able to correctly discriminate symptomatic Covid-19 positive individuals from asymptomatic negative ones, they should not be considered a perfect diagnostic test -- but rather a complementary tool," the study informed.

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