Covid-19: the scent of dogs would be as effective as a PCR test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus

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A study conducted by researchers from the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris and the National Veterinary School of Alfort, reveals that some dogs have the ability to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We explain this advance which could put an end to the painful PCR tests.

Covid-19 contaminations are on the rise again in France. If some people are starting to get used to the unpleasant PCR tests again, a study carried out by researchers from the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris and the National Veterinary School of Alfort, offers a new possibility of screening. According to them, the flairs of certain dogs could detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We explain to you.

97% reliability

According to the study published in the scientific journal PLOS-One, using dogs as a Covid-19 detector could be an alternative to consider: “The non-invasive detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by canine olfaction could be an alternative to NPS RT-PCR when it is necessary to obtain a result very quickly”, specifies the researchers and authors of the study.

According to a study by the AP-HP, screening #Covid by a dog comes out as efficient as that by antigenic test:

• sensitivity (=probability of a positive result for someone infected) of 97%
• specificity (=probability of a negative result for someone uninfected) of 91%


— Nicolas Berrod (@nicolasberrod) June 2, 2022

In order to prove their claims, the researchers developed an experiment. 335 adults were tested, in the batch, 143 were symptomatic and 192 asymptomatic. Among all these people, the dog managed to detect the presence of the virus in 97% of cases. A figure that “even reached 100% in asymptomatic individuals compared to NPS RT-PCR” attests to the study. These dogs “belong to the departmental fire and rescue services (SDIS of Yvelines and Oise) and the Ministry of the Interior of the United Arab Emirates”, can we read.

Detection protocol

To carry out the experiment as well as possible, 10 olfactory cones were placed in a room. “All contained unknown samples, so neither the handlers, data logger, nor anyone present knew anything about the positivity/negativity of the samples,” the researchers certify. If the dogs successfully completed the mission, they were also able to shed light on another type of result.

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The specificity results (probability of obtaining a negative result for someone uninfected), were 91% and 94% “in asymptomatic individuals”. In other words: “the sensitivity of canine detection was higher than that of the nasopharyngeal antigen test, but the specificity was lower,” the study reveals.

In Marseille, Covid-19 sniffer dogs have already been put in place. “The advantage of the dog is the speed of execution, that is to say that he will be able to go up a line of 40 people in three minutes”, attests Éric, first master of marine firefighters at our colleagues from Europe 1.

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