Dogs Trained to Detect Coronavirus

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Canines in Finland are being trained to detect coronavirus in human saliva. (Image from cnn.com)

In Helsinki, Finland their airport is trying a new tactic to detect coronavirus among the passengers. The new tactic is, surprisingly, dogs! 

In the past, dogs have been trained to find bombs and drugs they can also sniff out illnesses like cancer and malaria. For a typical dog, it takes about two to three months to detect drugs; but training dogs to detect the coronavirus in saliva only takes about one week depending on the dog. The training center says that they can be ready in six weeks to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the end of the epidemic.

Dogs being able to detect the coronavirus is a huge discovery. The COVID-19 rapid tests have only a 80% accuracy and miss infections about 20%-30% of the time according to an article at cityandstateny.com. “Dogs, however, are 94% accurate and only miss 10% of the time,” according to bmcinfectdic.biomedcenteral.com. This means that instead of taking the rapid test and getting your result back in 15 minutes for an 80% chance that it’s right, you could have a dog sniff a tissue with your sweat on it and get your result back instantly with a 94 percent accuracy. 

The discovery of dogs detecting the coronavirus could lower the spread of the illness. For example, right now not all airlines require you to take a test although it’s not a very big inconvenience. It would be much easier to have a dog smell a sample of your sweat and get back a result almost instantly before boarding a plane.

The discovery of dogs detecting the coronavirus could lower the spread of the illness.”

— Mia Intagliata, KNWeb Reporter

Using dogs to detect the virus also lowers the amount of waste. There’s the advantage of having more timely results because there is barely any wait time. It’s an almost instant result. Dogs detecting the virus is more efficient because there is less contact. It is also less costly because most of the dogs in the program are retired/failed guide dogs or any sort of service dog. This means that they are already trained to listen to commands and know public manners like not barking, heeling, etc. There is currently one big training center, Milton Keynes-based Medical Detection Dogs. 

In a CNN article, it is predicted that once Finland perfects the dog detecting experiment to almost perfect and has collected all the data (costs, waste and safety), we could expect to see dogs in airports near the end of next year. Scientists are so sure that this could partially prevent the spread of the coronavirus that the trial is backed up with £500,000 (or $594,387.50). That proves that there is a lot of promise for the Dogs Detecting Coronavirus experiment and that dogs could be in every airport detecting the virus.