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COVID: Dogs able to detect virus with 94% accuracy

February 4, 2021

The dogs were trained at the Hanover University of Veterinary Medicine and may help prevent the illness from spreading in large crowds. Dogs have already been put to work at airports and sport arenas around the world.

Filou the Belgian Shepherd has been trained to detect the virus
There is hope that dogs can detect the illness and prevent popular events from becoming spreader eventsImage: Ole Spata/dpa/picture alliance

A German veterinary clinic has trained dogs that can detect COVID-19 with 94% accuracy, even if people are asymptomatic.

The dogs were conditioned to sniff out the "coronavirus odor" that is emitted from cells in infected people, said Esther Schalke, a veterinarian at Germany's armed forces school for service dogs.  

Filou, a 3-year-old Belgian Shepherd, and Joe Cocker, a 1-year-old Cocker Spaniel, are two of the dogs that are being trained at Hanover's University of Veterinary Medicine.

Joe Cocker, the 1-year-old Cocker Spaniel, shows his abilities
Joe Cocker, the 1-year-old Cocker Spaniel, shows his abilities at detecting the illness in patient samplesImage: Ole Spata/dpa/picture alliance

Holger Volk, head of the clinic, said the dogs could accurately detect COVID-19 94% of the time in more than 1,000 samples.

"So dogs can really sniff out people with infections and without infections, as well as asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID patients," said Volk.

Stephan Weil, the state premier of Lower Saxony, said he was impressed with the study and called for more tests before the dogs wereput to work in the real world.

"We now need tests in selected events," said Weil.

Sniffer dogs have already been in use at airports in Helsinki, Finland, Santiago, Chile, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Sniffer dogs have also been used to check fans at Miami Heat basketball games in the United States.

Sniffer dogs in Finland test for COVID-19

kbd/msh (dpa, Reuters)