Dogs better at detecting Covid than lateral flow tests, study finds

Dogs better at detecting Covid than lateral flow tests, study finds

May 20, 2021

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The data has raised the question over whether pooches should be more widely used for mass virus screenings, particularly at places such as airports which will see increasing numbers of people due to the easing of lockdown restrictions. The study found that dogs were better at detecting Covid in humans than lateral flow tests (LFTs), which typically give results around 30 minutes after a sample is taken.

Conducted in March and April by France’s national veterinary school and the clinical research unit of Paris’s Necker-Cochin hospital, the research concluded that dogs can detect coronavirus in humans with 97 percent accuracy.

Speaking to Agence-France Presse, Professor Jean-Marc Tréluyer said: “These are excellent results, comparable with those of a PCR test.”

He added that despite this comparison, dogs would not replace polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

According to the study, canines were also correct at identifying negative Covid samples in 91 percent of cases.

These results suggest a strong ability at detecting the virus in comparison to LFTs, as a recent review by Cochrane found that these were able to detect an average of 72 percent of people with Covid and showing symptoms.

The same review also found that in people infected with COVID-19 but showing no symptoms, it only caught 58 percent of cases.

Professor Tréluyer added that dogs “could help identify those people who should undergo a full viral test and – because the dogs’ response is so quick – facilitate mass testing” in places such as nightclubs and travel hubs.

Data was collected from 335 people aged between six and 76, who were at a testing centre in Paris seeking a PCR test.

Cotton pads were pressed against participants’ armpits for two minutes in order to collect a reliable sample.

These pads were then sealed in jars before being given to at least two of the nine dogs included in the trial, so that they could sniff and indicate which were infected with Covid.

The canines never came into contact with the volunteers and the animal’s handlers were given no signals of which samples were positive.

Of these, the dogs were able to detect 97 percent of the 109 people who had a positive result from their PCR test.

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This was only slightly lower for those with a negative result, as 91 percent of samples were correctly identified by the pooches.

The Paris hospital board said: “These results are scientific confirmation of dogs’ capacity to detect the olfactory signature of Covid-19.”

The study is due to be published in a scientific review and is being hailed as the first of its kind.

Other researchers across the world have experimented with using dogs to detect Covid, with these results potentially providing the grounds to revisit this as the world recovers from the pandemic.

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