Can canines precisely detect COVID-19?
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As the coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic persists worldwide, scientists have turned their consideration to figuring out higher and sooner strategies to detect the extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In a brand new PLOS ONE examine, researchers consider the accuracy of utilizing canines to scent and determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in contaminated and non-infected people.

Study: Diagnostic Accuracy of Non-Invasive Detection Of SARS-Cov-2 Infection by Canine Olfaction. Image Credit: Trudie Davidson /


The want for a fast and environment friendly technique to display for SARS-CoV-2 contaminated people has been acknowledged for the reason that starting of the outbreak. The early identification of those people permits for them to be shortly remoted to restrict transmission of the virus and thus forestall the growth of a localized outbreak.

While the reverse transcription-polymerase chain response (RT-PCR) assay has been the gold customary for the analysis of coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19), point-of-care testing with fast antigen assessments has additionally been carried out. In some locations, salivary RT-PCR sampling changed the normal nasopharyngeal PCR assessments to reduce the discomfort and inconvenience of nasopharyngeal swab sampling and the delay in getting the check outcomes.

Volatile natural compounds within the human physique present important alterations in numerous illness states together with cancers, in addition to each infections and degenerative ailments. The ranges of those VOCs are traceable to modifications within the mobile genomic expression induced by the viral an infection. These modifications are particular and may be distinguished between infections with totally different strains of the identical virus.

Dogs have been used to smell out explosives, narcotics, foreign money notes, and human scents for search and rescue operations. In the present examine, researchers report on the outcomes of their experimental use of canines to detect SARS-CoV-2 in sweat, which is presumably attributable to virus replication or altered mobile metabolic processes.

Study findings

The present examine used sweat samples from 335 contributors in two COVID-19 screening applications at two facilities in Paris, France. Some of the canines have been from French hearth service departments, whereas the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of the Interior offered a number of extra. All canines have been skilled utilizing the identical strategies that included each constructive and destructive scent cones.

The canine olfactory outcomes have been validated utilizing nasopharyngeal and saliva RT-PCR outcomes. Multiplexed detection of different viruses together with adenovirus, endemic seasonal human coronaviruses like 229E and HKU1, influenza A H1 and H1N1, in addition to some intracellular micro organism like Bordetella pertussis and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, was additionally carried out.

The imply age of the contributors was about 35 years. Most examine contributors have been both symptomatic or have been beforehand in touch with a COVID-19-positive particular person. The median time between publicity or symptom onset to testing was 5 days and two days, respectively.

A: Testing room with its olfaction cones. B: Details of an olfaction cone, with a double-protected pattern and no risk of direct contact with the canine. C: Process involving olfaction cones and canine. D: Positive marking by a canine, sitting in entrance of a cone containing a constructive pattern.  

A 3rd of the contributors have been constructive for COVID-19 RT-PCR, 97% of whom have been appropriately detected by the canines with a specificity of 91%. In reality, each asymptomatic particular person was recognized appropriately by the canines with a specificity of 94%. The sensitivity and specificity of this technique evaluate favorably with that of nasopharyngeal and saliva RT-PCR with a cycle threshold (Ct) worth of 32 because the cutoff and utilizing one, two, or extra goal genes for a constructive check.

Overall, 84% of constructive identifications by the canines have been true positives, with the negatives recognized appropriately in virtually each case. The accuracy of analysis didn’t change with prior remedy or historical past of prior an infection. Whether the Ct worth was set at 28 or much less, or above this worth, thus denoting excessive and low viral hundreds, respectively, no important change in accuracy was discovered.

Different canines have been additionally related to related accuracies. The canine detection was extra delicate than the antigen assessments at 91% and 84%, respectively; nevertheless, the canines have been related to a decrease specificity than the fast antigen assessments at 90% and 97%, respectively.

Out of 20 samples that have been recognized as constructive by the canines however have been destructive by multiplex RT-PCR, just one case was constructive for SARS-CoV-2, whereas two have been constructive for endemic coronaviruses NL63 and OC43.


The findings of this examine point out “the excellent sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 detection by dogs using nasopharyngeal RT-PCR as the reference for comparison.” This corroborates earlier proof-of-concept experiments on sweat samples from hospitalized COVID-19 sufferers. Notably, that is the primary potential screening examine for SARS-CoV-2 an infection that compares canine identification with antigen testing.

Interestingly, the sensitivity of the canine identification method was higher than 95% in all situations, with specificity ranging between 83% and 95%. The comparable sensitivity with a lot larger comfort of sampling and far much less affected person discomfort might make this a viable possibility for screening assessments.

Further analysis might be wanted to find out if direct screening with out the gathering of sweat or saliva samples will yield comparable outcomes. This might speed up the present screening course of significantly, although some people who worry canines must be exempted. Moreover, contamination of the canines is feasible with this method.

Some research are already ongoing on this regard, particularly amongst particular wants youngsters and sufferers with Alzheimer’s illness, each of whom are very troublesome to pattern. If profitable, this testing method might take away the necessity to routinely pattern college youngsters a number of occasions per week, as is the present follow.

However, skilled canines are costly and in excessive demand, and their provide is restricted. To guarantee replicability of outcomes, canine certification may also be required. Despite these potential limitations, the present examine demonstrates the worth of this technique as a substitute for antigenic assessments when it comes to its comfort, velocity, non-invasiveness, and reliability.

Further research might be targeted on direct sniffing by canines to judge sniffer canines for mass pre-test. Axillary sweat testing might stay helpful for small inhabitants testing or for cell models performing on native clusters as a substitute for antigenic assessments.”

Journal reference:

  • Grandjean, D., Elie, C., Gallet, C., et al. (2022). Diagnostic Accuracy of Non-Invasive Detection Of SARS-Cov-2 Infection by Canine Olfaction. PLOS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0268382,

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