Sniffer dogs to reduce coronavirus outbreaks at workplaces


Bea the German Shepherd sniffer dog has been trained to detect the smell of people infected by coronavirus. Photo: dpa

Although pandemic restrictions have been lifted it many countries around the world, researchers believe that sniffer dogs could still be of use in preventing coronavirus outbreaks at large companies and shared working spaces.

Sniffer dogs trained to sniff out coronavirus infection are suitable for use in everyday situations, large gatherings and events, researchers say in a study published in the scientific journal BMJ Global Health in November.

"This kind of dog is an early warning system," said study leader Holger Volk, head of the Clinic for Small Animals at the TiHo, noting that trained dogs are even able to identify infections before the PCR test is positive.

"Large companies like Continental and Volkswagen could use them as a relatively inexpensive screening tool to increase the safety of their employees," said Volk who led the research at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover.

For the study, sweat samples were taken at four concerts in Hanover in September and October 2021. The visitors had also given swabs for a rapid antigen test and a PCR test on the day of the concert.

In the end, sweat samples, test results and information on vaccination status and chronic diseases, among other things, were available for a total of 2,802 participants.

Researchers said the eight specially trained dogs recognised the Sars-Cov-2-negative samples 99.9% of the time and the positive samples 81.6% of the time.

The study shows that dogs can reliably distinguish samples not only under laboratory conditions, but also in everyday life, emphasised study leader Volk.

Increasingly being used for odour recognition in medicine, dogs able to recognise various types of cancer, malaria and some bacterial and viral infections.

Sniffer dogs have already been used at airports and public events to help detect coronavirus infections and prevent super-spreader events, and researchers also believe dogs will be able to help spot unidentified Long Covid cases. – dpa

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