How are dogs helping in detecting Covid-19 symptoms through humans?

We all are well aware of what is happening around the world because of this Coronavirus pandemic. Scientists, researchers and the government are working day and night to find a solution or an alternative to cure this deadly virus. Scientist have been using tools as Polymerase chain reaction test to recognise the Covid infection in people.

With new research happening globally, a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine are working on dogs and training them to spot the virus by smelling. Tukka, Toby, Roxxie, Rico and Griz are five cute dogs that are a part of research dogs trained to smell out and recognise the scent of SARS-CoV-2.

If you are wondering how are these cute little dogs, and what else do they do in the research centres, let me tell you they are having fun.

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Toby is the lazy one; he loves napping and barking at passing automobiles. Where Tuukka loves playing Frisbee and Griz admires a squishy orange ball. And, Roxxie loves playing while experimentations are going on, and she is the fastest. The dogs are getting trained to sniff the virus odour through sweaty T-shirts. 

(The training is happening to see if they can detect the scent of the virus through clothing, then these dogs can do some patrolling at places like airports and stadiums and sniff out the virus from people.

There was a study published in Plos One this April that revealed that the Coronavirus contains an odour. And a trained sniffer dog can recognise the scent of the virus through human’s urine and saliva.

What is the smell of sweat?

It’s an undoubted fact that dogs have better sensing and smelling than humans. Dogs have been essentially beneficial to us. Dogs till date has been sniffing out early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, oncoming epileptic seizures, malaria, various types of cancer and even diabetes. They have helped us in military operations and sensing natural disasters.

The team in Pennsylvania are training the dogs to smell out Covid19 from saliva and urine samples since 2020. They even started teaching the dogs to recognise the virus through human’s sweat. Their plan is dependent on how well the dogs learn to connect with the scent of this deadly virus. (Remember, it is safe, and the research dogs are getting tested daily to ensure that they do not contract the 

How are they training the dogs?

The researchers place different sweaty T-shirts with various items like clean clothing, rubbing alcohol etc., to distract them. They keep all these items inside mesh-covered canisters on the ends of an eight-spoke metal wheel. 

Where one canister carries a sweaty T-shirt with a Covid scent on it, Dogs are learning to walk all around the canister wheel until they recognise the positive sample of Covid from the sweaty T-shirt.

There was a survey in April that revealed that dogs were able to figure out the Covid virus through sniffing urine and saliva samples with approx 96 per cent accuracy. The training on Sweaty T-shirts with Covid odour is still going on while reaching success at levels.

How will these sniffer dogs work on the ground?

Studies show that dogs can detect the novel Coronavirus. They sniff in volatile organic compounds, and the chemicals that are present in human’s saliva, urine and sweat.

Various studies have concluded in U.K and France too. Dogs are working at the Finland Helsinki-Vanatta international airport where the dogs are patrolling and sniffing out the covid through infected people.

Some searchers have revealed, that in some or more time, animals can replace the PCR test and can just sniff out the covid from an infected person.

The plan is to train dogs to detect virus through humans sweat so they can walk among crowds and sniff people with infection. 

(FYI, SARS-CoV-2 can not transmit to people/animals through sweat)

The downsides?

People still feel it is too soon to conclude that dogs can detect the virus and unite with us to fight against the pandemic.

Not all dog breeds will be the best fit to be a sniffer dog. Obviously, if you teach a dog to do something, it will respond to you. But, it will just take more time with dogs who are not proper sniffer dogs, and that is why specially sniffer dogs are experimented with and coached to detect this deadly disease.

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