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Trained in a Week, Dogs Sniff Out People Infected with SARS-CoV-2 with Amazing Accuracy, Could Be Used in Public Areas

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Dogs can differentiate between samples of SARS-CoV-2 infected humans and control samples.
 

Credit; TiHoVideos  (German version) https://youtu.be/WGYDmN-2m1M

A team of researchers led by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover (TiHo) published a study on dogs that were treated with the SARS-CoV-2- in cooperation with the Bundeswehr, the Hanover Medical School and the Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital Virus infected people can sniff out. The dogs only had to be trained for a week to distinguish between samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected patients and uninfected controls. The method could be used in public areas such as airports, sporting events, at borders or other mass events as a supplement to laboratory tests to prevent the virus from spreading or outbreaks.

Labrador bitch Frida

 Photo: Kerstin Thellmann

The study was carried out with eight specialized detection dogs from the Bundeswehr. After training, they were able to correctly identify 94 percent of 1,012 saliva or tracheobronchial secretion samples. The samples were distributed automatically at random and neither the dog handlers involved nor the researchers on site knew which samples were positive and which were used for control. The dogs were able to distinguish between samples of infected (positive) and non-infected (negative) individuals with an average sensitivity of 83 percent and a specificity of 96 percent. The sensitivity indicates the detection of positive samples. Specificity detection of negative control samples.

Dr. Esther Schalke, behavioral researcher and dog trainer works at the Bundeswehr School of Official Dogs in Ulmen and accompanied the project on the part of the Bundeswehr. She says: “Dog odor detection is far better than the general public can imagine. Still, we were amazed at how quickly our dogs could be trained to recognize samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals. “

Dr. Friederike Twele, Dr. Sebastian Meller, Hund Otto, Professor Holger Volk, PhD. 

Photo: Dr. Sebastian Meller

Professor Dr. Albert Osterhaus from the Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses at TiHo said: “When Professor Volk contacted me, I was initially amazed, but then also fascinated by the idea of ​​using detection dogs to detect SARS-CoV-2. It is known that infectious respiratory diseases can release specific volatile organic compounds. This pilot study is likely to show how volatile organic compounds could be used for future test strategies. ”

Professor Holger Volk, PhD, director of the clinic for small animals at TiHo, said: “The results of the study are incredibly exciting. We have created a solid foundation for future studies to investigate what the dogs smell and whether they can also be used to differentiate between different times of illness or clinical phenotypes. ”

TiHo President Dr. Gerhard Greif said: “The Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses enables us at TiHo to work with pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2. The virus is at security level 3. Without this high-security building, projects like this would not be possible. “

Since the beginning of domestication, humans have used the dogs’ extraordinary smell abilities to hunt prey or to protect themselves from predators. Dogs are also increasingly used in the field of medical odor detection. They are able to detect infectious and non-infectious diseases such as various types of cancer, malaria, bacterial and viral infections.

Contacts and sources:
Professor Holger Volk, PhD
Veterinary University of Hanover Foundation
Small Animal Clinic

Prof. Dr. Albert Osterhaus
Veterinary University of Hanover Foundation
Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses

Prof. Dr. Maren von Köckritz-Blickwede
Veterinary University of Hanover Foundation
Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses
 

Publication: Scent dog identification of samples from COVID-19 patients – a pilot study, Jendrny et al. (2020):  BMC Infectious Diseases, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-020-05281-3

 



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