Could man’s best friend also be a solid ally in the fight against coronavirus? In any case, this is what Professor Dominique Grandjean, head of the Paris veterinary service for firefighters, thinks. He plans to experiment with cynotechnical skills to identify specific odors that may be emitted by Covid-19 positive patients. Eight dogs have already been trained in Ajaccio since Friday, as part of this program called Nosais.
“We thought there was no reason why the virus should not leave scent marks”
Concretely, the doctors will put compresses under the armpits of Ajacciens coronavirus patients for 10 minutes in order to collect their sweat. The dogs will then sniff these compresses a hundred times a day for a week in order to memorize a possible odor specific to Covid-19. Then, they will receive a reward each time they choose the right one, among other uncontaminated compresses. “We said to ourselves that there was no reason why the virus should not leave any olfactory traces,” said Dominique Grandjean at the microphone of Europe 1.
“It has already been demonstrated for viral diseases in cattle, where dogs are used as a detection tool. Any dog from the fire brigade, gendarmes, national police or customs could be trained,” he continues. “A dog capable of detecting explosives knows 40 different smells. Here, we are just going to put one more and that will not cause him any problem.”
A complementary solution to screening tests?
If the experience is validated, anti-coronavirus dogs can provide a complementary solution to screening for the disease. “The hospital needs numerous and reliable means of screening,” said Jean-Luc Pesce, director of the Ajaccio teaching hospital. “Today, the PCR test has a reliability of 70%. So we need to cross it with other types of screening.”
The first results of this Nosais trial will be known in mid-May. After Corsica, other territories should join the experiment in the coming weeks, such as the fire and rescue service of Seine-et-Marne or the battalion of seafarers of Marseille. It would therefore be possible to see in the coming months these dogs posted in particular in airports, to test a large number of people, in a minimum of time.