A German study has found that dogs are capable of sniffing out the coronavirus from the saliva of infected patients.

Sniffing out the virus

University of Veterinary Medicine researchers in Hannover, Germany, discovered that trained detection canines monitored in the study could differentiate between samples of the saliva of individuals infected with the novel coronavirus and healthy people.

According to Fox News, authors of the study found that the detection dogs were able to achieve a detection rate of 94 percent with the use of 1,012 randomized samples.

The study utilized a randomized controlled double-blinded trial that observed eight detection dogs who had a one-week training period in detecting saliva or secretions of COVID-19 positive individuals.

The trained canines had significant accuracy in determining whether the saliva samples they were given belonged to a person with the coronavirus or not.

Authors of the study stated that they recorded 157 correct indications of positive and 792 correct rejections of negative. However, the trained dogs also had 33 incorrect indications of negative and 30 incorrect rejections of positive.

The researchers explained that when an individual is infected with a disease like a coronavirus, there are certain compounds the body produces that could cause unique scent imprints which can be identified by the powerful odor detection of trained dogs.

The VCA Animal Hospitals noted that dogs focus most of their brainpower to determining and differentiating smells. The animals have over 100 million sensory receptor sites in their nasal cavities compared to the six million found in humans.

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The hospital also said dogs had 40 times the size of the brain that analyzes odors compared to humans and are estimated to have 1,000 to 10,000 better sense of smell than people.

The authors of the study noted the results were only preliminary findings and that further research was needed to develop a more reliable detection method for the coronavirus. The researchers said the trained dogs could be used as an alternative to lab testing and could potentially be used in public areas, including sports events and mass gatherings.

A professor at the university, Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, said the next steps of the study would be to train canines to be able to differentiate between various diseases such as influenza, as reported by the SeattleTimes.

Similar research

Researchers are conducting a similar study in the UK that aims to determine if specially-trained airport sniffer dogs are capable of detecting COVID-19 infected patients among travelers before symptoms even begin to appear.

According to CNN, airports commonly employ sniffer dogs that aim to detect drugs, weapons, and other contrabands. Some sniffer dogs have been specially trained to detect diseases, including cancer and malaria.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers collaborated with the Medical Detection Dogs charity and Durham University in the UK. They said that people with respiratory diseases tend to have a change in their body odor which trained dogs could correctly pick out from a crowd.

The preliminary tests involved the use of six dogs that were aptly named "The Super Six" that consisted of either labradors or cocker spaniels.

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