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VIDEO. Corsica tests dogs’ sense of smell to detect Covid-19 – Insurance for dogs


In the medical world, the work of specialized dogs, thanks to their sense of smell, is no longer to be demonstrated. However, when he presented this experimental project, he was able to surprise more than one.

Colonel Bruno Maestracci, director of Sis 2A, in contact with Dominique Grandjean, Colonel veterinarian at the Paris Fire Brigade who coordinates this project, ensures that he has obtained the support of all. « The objective of this experimental project is to help detect people with the Covid-19 virus using the smell of specialized dogs, whether or not they are symptomatic. Six dogs from the Sis 2A dog team will be specially trained for this for the next two to three weeks ”, explains Colonel Maestracci. A dog and his master, of the cynophile team of the national gendarmerie also integrate this project, confirmed, yesterday evening, the general Tony Mouchet, commander of the region of Gendarmerie of Corsica.

The operational phase starts today

“Every person emits an odor when faced with something that disturbs the human body. It is therefore very likely that dogs can detect and isolate the odor attributed to the Covid-19 virus. Specialized dogs can detect Parkinson’s disease up to five years before symptoms appear. « , illustrates the doctor of Sis 2A, Doctor Éric Bernes-Luciani.

« For several days we have been talking with the regional health agency, the prefect, the hospital director but also the department heads to refine the method », explains the director of Sis.

« After obtaining the consent of hospitalized people, we will place a compress under the armpits of patients for thirty minutes, details Doctor Bernard Lecomte, medical crisis director at Aiacciu hospital. Dog teams will collect the samples. For the negative samples necessary for the training of animals, the samples will undoubtedly be taken from the caregivers ”.

Only pitfall, which nevertheless represents good news, « There are fewer and fewer new positive cases at Ajaccio hospital, not one for the past seven days », specifies Doctor Lecomte. Samples will also be taken from Eugénie hospital.

The dogs, mainly Malinois, in the midst of which a curriculum has crept, begin their training today.

« The principle is based on the game, says the veterinary doctor commanding Sis 2A, Aymeric Bernard. When the dog marks, that is to say, stops, on a compress from a patient who is positive for Covid, he will have a reward such as playing with his favorite toy. « 

« We will have to channel the dogs »

Yesterday, the president of Sis 2A, Pierre Poli, wanted to meet the teams. To reveal part of their method, dog handlers then start some demonstration exercises. In the middle of a site dedicated to this training, located in Aiacciu, specialized, lively, affectionate and playful dogs are ready for training.

« They are used to looking for people in an open space, underlines Brice Leva, head of unit of Sis 2A.
We will have to channel them, condition them to work in this space. We will ask the dogs to smell each pot that we have installed in a room and in which there will be the compresses. « 

The premises have been fitted out and secured to allow the implementation of this project. In the redevelopment, a one-way window is planned but a confinement period requires, the Sis 2A services are always looking for this material.

“This training should last two to three weeks.
It is not certain that of the seven dogs participating in this project, all were operational by that date ”, nuance the veterinarian.

In order to reinforce the relevance of this method, each person considered positive will be subjected to the smell of a second dog.

Smell 1,000 times that of humans

« It is estimated that they can test 250 people in one hour. It is a method which could prove to be very effective in airports or ports, in addition to current tests ”, insists Aymeric Bernard. The laboratory of the University of Corsica is also associated with the project.

But the work has already started. Yesterday, during a training session, Nash, a Malinois, lent himself to the game by plunging his mouth in the famous pots, which will welcome medical compresses today, in order to find his toy. Once found, he sat down and kindly waited for his reward. Nash’s sense of smell is « 1,000 times that of humans », believes Aymeric Bernard.