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Dogs might be able to sniff out COVID-19 infections, early research suggests

CNN – Dogs might be able to lend a helping paw in the fight against COVID-19, according to a new study published on Sunday.

Scientist with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Durham University and the group Medical Detection Dogs finished Phase 1 of a trial examining if dogs can smell and identify a COVID-19 infection under controlled conditions.

Six dogs participated in the study, ranging in ages from four to six years old. The group included Labrador, Golden Retriever and Cocker Spaniel breeds. Researchers said the dogs were able to pick up the scent of COVID-19 after six to eight weeks of training, CNN reported.

The research has not yet been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal, thought early results have been published in a preprint study.

The dogs showed a sensitivity rate of around 82%-94% in detecting COVID-19. Chemical analysis of the infection showed a “distinct” odor associated with COVID-19. Researchers are in the process of identifying the exact chemicals behind this odor, CNN reported.

“Dogs could detect Covid with incredible speed and accuracy,” said James Logan, a project lead on the study. — “even if a person was asymptomatic.”

The specificity rate, which measured the ability of the dogs to indicate whether someone did not have COVID-19, ranged from around 76% to 92%.

While results are promising, it is too early to know for sure if COVID-sniffing dogs would be used in real life to identify the virus.

COVID-19 can also infect dogs, which makes using them risky, Mick Bailey, a professor of comparative immunology at the University of Bristol’s Veterinary School, who was unaffiliated with the research, said in a statement.

“Infection of dogs with SARS-CoV-2 has been reported, both asymptomatic and associated with variable levels of disease as in humans, so using dogs deliberately to sniff breath and clothes from potentially infected people seems a bit of a risk to the dogs, let alone their handlers,” he said.

Phase 2 of this study will involve testing the dogs’ detection abilities on people actually infected with Covid-19, not just samples of clothing.

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