A recent review study conducted by Prof. Tommy Dickey from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Heather Junqueira from BioScent Detection Dogs has revealed some fascinating findings about using scent dogs to detect COVID-19.
According to their research, these specially trained dogs seem to be more efficient and accurate than current COVID-19 tests, such as the commonly used RT-PCR.
The incredible smelling abilities of dogs are well-known, but this study highlights just how powerful their sense of smell can be.
Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory cells, while humans only have around 5 or 6 million.
Additionally, dogs use one-third of their brain to process scent information, compared to just 5% for humans.
This superior olfactory capability allows them to recognize specific volatile organic compounds produced in the body during various diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.
The review analyzed 29 different studies involving over 31,000 samples, conducted by more than 400 scientists from over 30 countries, using 19 different dog breeds.
In some studies, the dogs sniffed individuals directly in public places, while in others, they were presented with samples like sweat, saliva, or urine.
Remarkably, in the majority of these studies, the scent dogs exhibited similar or even better sensitivity and specificity compared to the standard RT-PCR tests or antigen tests commonly used for COVID-19 detection.
One particularly impressive finding was that some of the dogs could detect the equivalent of less than 2.6 x 10−12 copies of viral RNA per milliliter.
To put this into perspective, it’s like detecting one drop of any odorous substance dissolved in ten and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
This level of sensitivity was three orders of magnitude better than what modern scientific instruments can achieve.
Not only were the dogs effective in detecting COVID-19 in symptomatic individuals, but they also successfully identified pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, as well as different COVID-19 variants and cases of long COVID.
Their ability to provide rapid results in just seconds to minutes was a significant advantage.
Additionally, using scent dogs does not require expensive laboratory equipment, and it helps reduce plastic waste, making it an environmentally friendly approach to diagnostics.
Prof. Dickey and Heather Junqueira are optimistic about the potential of scent dogs in the medical field, especially during pandemics, where they could play a crucial role in rapid health screenings in public spaces.
They believe that this study’s impressive international research on COVID scent dogs demonstrates that these specially trained canines are now ready for mainstream medical applications.
The possibilities of utilizing scent dogs for detecting various diseases in the future are exciting and promising.
- Scent dogs detect COVID-19 faster and more accurately than current tests.
- Dogs’ exceptional olfactory abilities enable them to detect specific disease-related compounds.
- Studies with 31,000 samples from 30 countries and 19 dog breeds show scent dogs have similar or better sensitivity than standard tests.
- Some dogs can detect minuscule viral RNA amounts, surpassing modern instruments.
- Scent dogs identify COVID-19 in symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic patients, including variants and long COVID cases.
- Their speed provides results in seconds to minutes, without expensive lab equipment or plastic waste.
- Scent dogs show potential for mainstream medical applications in pandemics and detecting various diseases.