Can dogs detect coronavirus patients? It is the bet of a French veterinary surgeon who will start trials next week. “The idea entered our heads a few weeks ago because work carried out several years ago at a university in Alabama, in the United States, showed that we could diagnose viral diseases in cattle using the dog’s nose “, said on BFMTV this Friday the head of the veterinary service of the Paris fire department.
“We thought that if a virus was capable of leaving traces of smell on an animal, there was no reason why it would not leave it on a human,” adds Dominique Grandjean.
These tests, which will be carried out at the Alfort veterinary school, in collaboration with the Bégin hospital in Saint-Mandé, will therefore aim to confirm or not this hypothesis.
Sweat samples submitted to dogs
“We are going to take sweat samples – the only biological liquid which we know does not extract the virus and which therefore does not present a risk for operators – under the armpits of patients carrying or not carrying Covid-19” , explains Dominique Grandjean.
Dogs, already trained in detection, will sniff these samples and will be rewarded when they find a positive sample. “Then we will observe if they notice other samples, without being guided”, continues the veterinarian who specifies that “on already trained dogs, it takes a week to integrate a new smell into their reference library” .
Detecting contaminated travelers
In the United Kingdom, a similar study is currently being carried out by the Medical Detection Dogs association, which is working on this subject with researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Durham.
The team set itself the goal of training the animals in six weeks, so that they could quickly provide health authorities with a “rapid and non-invasive” “diagnostic tool”. If the test is successful, once trained, the dogs could be used to identify travelers infected with the virus on their arrival in the country or be deployed in other public spaces.