Trained French dogs successfully sniff out coronavirus

Tests conducted with trained German Shepherds at a veterinary school in Maisons-Alfort (Val-de-Marne) show a 95% success rate in sniffing out the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

25 May 2020
German Shepherds have been trained to sniff out coronavirus in a recent trial
By Joanna York

Weeks of trails have produced positive results at veterinary school and research centre l'École Nationale Vétérinaire in Maisons-Alfort, where researchers say their German Shepherds have been trained to detect coronavirus. 

During the trial, the dogs had to identify the presence of the virus by smelling sweat samples taken from subjects who were infected with Covid-19.

The school partnered with hospital Beaujon de Clichy to collect sweat samples from both infected and non-infected subjects. The sweat samples were then used to soak pieces of cotton wool which were placed inside metal cones. 

The dogs then used their sense of smell to identify whether the sweat sample inside the cone was infected or not. 

In 95% of cases, the dogs were correct.

Read more: Trained dogs ‘could sniff out coronavirus’

Read more: France urges public to get coronavirus tests

Leader of the trial, Professor Dominique Grandjean, explained to news source TF1: “Where we are today, we can say that there is a specific smell in the sweat of people of people who are Covid positive, so carriers of the virus.”

To reach this high success rate, the dogs required four days of training. The German Shepherds used for the trial are also experienced sniffer dogs, which usually work alongside the fire brigade, helping to find missing people and detect explosives. 

Current Covid-19 testing methods

Current coronavirus testing methods include tests are PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, which involve taking a cotton swab of the nose or throat, or blood tests. Both of these methods can take time to show results and there are questions over the reliability of PCR tests

While more trials are required before the sniffer dogs could be widely used, Professor Grandjean believes they could provide a quick and cost-effective solution to testing in airports and other locations. “We could make the dogs available to local governments so that people can be tested without pain, for free and eventually, every day,” he said.

Related articles

Pets and Covid-19 in France: FAQs and vet care rules

Pets do ‘not need disinfecting’, French vet warns

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