Dogs can detect COVID better than nasal PCR tests, study finds

Would you rather have an adorable dog licking your face than an invasive swab in your nose? It’s a research-driven option now in testing for the coronavirus.

Trained dogs showed signs of being more effective at detecting COVID-19 than nasal swab PCR tests, a new study has found.

The peer-reviewed study, published Wednesday in the journal Plos One, determined that properly trained dogs are so equipped to detect COVID-19 that PCR testing comes second only to them. This is largely due to dogs’ ability to detect COVID-19 in symptomatic and asymptomatic people.

The study found that the specially trained dogs had a 97% accuracy rate of detecting symptomatic cases and then an impressive 100% of asymptomatic cases in a sample of 335 adults. Some research has even found that dogs can detect asymptomatic cases 48 hours before someone tests positive via a PCR test.

Support:After Texas school shooting, army of therapy dogs arrive to soothe ragged nerves

“The dog doesn’t lie,” study author Dominique Grandjean, a professor at the National Veterinary School of Alfort in France, told Science News.

The researchers said the dogs were so successful because they were able to identify COVID from sweat samples as a byproduct of their natural olfactory abilities.

How are the dogs trained? In the study, dogs from French fire stations and the UAE Ministry of Interior were recruited. Then they were trained to detect the coronavirus by rewarding them with toys – most often tennis balls. The training can last from three to six weeks.

The dogs sniffed samples of human sweat into an olfactory cone. If a dog detected COVID, the animal would sit in front of the cone.

Cynthia Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania which is not affiliated with the study, said using dogs to detect COVID on a larger scale could be difficult.

“The study is a solid study, but they’re all sample-based, so the question becomes, ‘can we translate this to be an effective operation?’ Can it be similar to TSA dogs at airports? It’s complicated and we still have a lot to learn. But it’s definitely an achievable goal.

A similar 2021 study in Florida found that trained dogs had a 73% to 93% accuracy rate in detecting COVID-19. And a British study last May found that trained dogs could detect with an accuracy rate of 82% to 94%.

Comments are closed.