Professionally trained dogs can sniff out explosives, drugs and smuggled food. There’s a reason why dogs are such superior sniffers, even if they’re smelling out different things — the area of their brain devoted to analysing scent is 40 times greater than ours, and they can identify smells at least 1,000 times better than we can.
And now, according to British scientists, sniffer dogs could soon be used at airports and mass gathering to pick up the smell of COVID-19 pick — they’ve been trained to, using smelly socks.
ABC News said that within a half-hour, the COVID-trained dogs could screen a line of several hundred people, and detect those infected with up to 94.3% sensitivity — due to the corona odour.
The results come from an early-stage study. And yes, people had to donate “odour samples”, in the form of unwashed socks or shirts worn by members of the public, as well as health workers. In fact, 3,500 odour samples were donated. Researchers in the study said that the dogs were able to sniff out mild COVID-19 cases, as well as asymptomatic cases.
These good dogs were also able to detect cases that were caused by a mutant variant, one that emerged in the UK in the later months of 2020.
Trained over several weeks, the canines were introduced to odour samples from people who tested positive and those who tested negative, the latter being the control group. The study found that in terms of detection, there was a low risk of false-positive results; dogs detected odour with up to 92% specificity.
The accuracy, we tell you. Or, the World Health Organisation may tell you — it’s higher than the organisations’ current recommendations for COVID-19 diagnostics.
However, the study does need to be peer-reviewed, as well as replicated in real-world situations, as opposed to just training situations with provided samples.