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Sniffer dogs soon operational to detect the Covid-19? – Insurance for dogs


Dogs are already used to screen for various types of cancer (breast, prostate, etc.). Professor Dominique Grandjean, from the Maisons-Alfort Veterinary School, therefore had the idea of ​​using these animals to detect SARS-CoV-2, which is the source of Covid-19. This experiment aims to determine if the viral disease gives off a specific odor through sweat.

The dog is able to learn many orders and to adopt reflexes when facing them. The policyholdersdog insurance know this very well. This is the reason why this animal is used in many activities (hunting, rescue, drug detection, etc.).

Recently, Dominique Grandjean, who heads the veterinary service of the Pompiers de Paris, has started a test to find out if dogs can detect the coronavirus. These are canines already used to looking for people, explosives, etc. The experiment involves making them sniff a sweat sample from a patient infected with the disease. No treatment has yet been administered to prevent odor interference.

A practical and inexpensive screening method

Viral pathologies most often present an odor that trained dogs are able to recognize. If it turns out that this is also the case with Covid-19, it is possible to train canids to detect this disease. In fact, British researchers are already exploring this avenue.

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In France, Professor Grandjean has carried out similar tests. He believes that dogs can be trained in 5-10 days. As a result, the results will be available in several weeks and are likely to be conclusive.

The Hexagon already has nearly 3,000 sniffer dogs. They could be used to identify individuals infected with the coronavirus in public places such as airports and train stations.

Professor Grandjean specifies:

It would be an additional screening tool, not the only one of course, but given the number of tests that will have to be performed after the deconfinement, we may be very happy to have these dogs. We will not have them for May 11, but we can hope, if it works, to make them operational in the weeks that follow.

The first advantage of this solution lies in its cost. Indeed, it does not require massive investments. Otherwise, canine screening is particularly safe. In the case of cancers, for example, reliability is close to 100%. However, it is only about 70% with PCR tests used in Covid-19 research.

A promising track

The first test took place in Paris during the last week of April 2020. It involved 4 fire dogs already trained in olfactory screening. In particular, they have been trained to search for people and to identify and memorize the smell of drugs or explosives. Faced with familiar scents, they start to bark or lie down.

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Since May 1, the experiment has been carried out with other canines working with firefighters and gendarmes in Ajaccio (Corse-du-Sud). Concretely, this involves adding the smell of the coronavirus to those with which these animals are already accustomed. Professor Grandjean explains:

A dog that is looking for explosives is already initiated into forty molecules, if we add the Covid, it will ultimately only be a 41st for him to assimilate, it’s in his ropes, we don’t no need to start all the memorization work from the beginning […].

The training is therefore very fast, as the specialist adds. However, SARS-CoV-2 must involve specific molecules which will be found in sweat. For the time being, the experts are still at the experimental stage. As Professor Grandjean points out:

We presume, but even if it seems logical, we are not sure of anything yet, because there have been no publications on it.

In any case, these tests attract attention. Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco have already approached Professor Grandjean to find out more about his project.