International trial to sniff out COVID-19

An international study is looking at whether dogs can effectively sniff out cases of coronavirus.
An international study is looking at whether dogs can effectively sniff out cases of coronavirus.

Not only are dogs man's best friend but they're also being trained to sniff out COVID-19 infections.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide are working with international partners to train canines to detect the infection, and hope to deploy them within months.

The University said the trained dogs would complement existing methods by providing low cost, instantaneous and reliable screening.

They could be used to screen hospital staff, travellers in quarantine or at airports.

"Previous research has shown dogs can detect the presence of specific Volatile Olfactory Compounds (VOCs) caused by a viral infection in people," the University said in a statement.

Dr Anne-Lise Chaber from the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences said the study would test the sensitivity and specificity of canine smelling detection of VOCs induced by COVID-19.

"Dogs are trained in the same way as dogs that detect explosives,'' Dr Chaber said.

"If results from our local study are positive we will be able to move to the clinical screening phase.

"According to recent studies, dogs are not susceptible to SARS-CoV2 and the virus cannot replicate in them.

"This tool will become crucial when borders reopen or if we face another wave."

Dr Chaber and Dr Susan Hazel are coordinating the Australian arm of the international alliance.

The international team, led by the National Veterinary School in Alfort in France, have preliminary results that show specialised dogs can detect COVID-19 VOCs in patients, with some recording a 100 per cent success rate.

There are also indications the canines can identify infected people prior to developing symptoms or those who are asymptomatic.

Australian Associated Press