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France trials coronavirus sniffer dogs

The dogs have been trained for the past three months to learn to detect the smell of Covid-19

With the help of HK and Phoenix, two Malinois sniffer dogs, firefighters and police in Corsica have been carrying out tests to see if Covid-19 can be detected by the dogs. 

“The dogs have been trained to recognise the smell of Covid in sweat,” Bruno Maestracci, head of the Corsican fire and rescue service in Corse-du-Sud (Sis 2), told press agency AFP. 

The team takes samples of volunteers' sweat by putting compresses under their arms. The samples are then sent to the Université de Corse, which the team has a partnership with, to be analysed. Once the samples have been tested, they are presented to HK and Phoenix to sniff. 

"Only then will we know if the dogs 'mark' a compress or not,” Aymeric Benard, a veterinarian working with Sis 2, told AFP. 

The dogs’ results then have to be compared to those obtained by the regional health agency using PCR tests. 

More than 300 people volunteered to be tested between Wednesday (July 22) and the following Monday, either by PCR tests, having their sweat samples taken, or both methods. It marks the conclusion of a three-month project in which the dogs were trained. 

According to Marie-Hélène Lecenne, Director of the Regional Health Agency of Corsica, the results of this project will be known by the beginning of next week.

It is not the first time trials have been conducted in France to see if dogs can detect Covid-19. German Shepherds were used to test for the virus at a veterinary school in Maisons-Alfort, where a 95% success rate was shown. 

Other trials involving sniffer dogs have been carried out in the UK and Germany, with both showing initially promising results. 

According to the website of Medical Detection Dogs, a UK charity currently training six sniffer dogs to detect Covid-19, “a dog’s incredible sense of smell… combined with their ability to learn makes them perfect for detection work.”

“They are already commonly used to detect odours associated with drugs, explosives, and food… and our research has shown they can detect the odour of disease with high levels of accuracy.”

Read more about dogs in France:

Trained French dogs successfully sniff out coronavirus

Bomb technology on trial to sniff out Covid-19 on planes

Dog owners in south of France warned of incurable disease

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