the Bordeaux University Hospital trains dogs to detect the Covid, “everything is based on the game”

Django and three other dogs are part of four volunteer pairs who form the first Covid detector dog brigade in New Aquitaine, resulting from the Cynocov program. Since 2021, this initiative has been supported by Ceva Santé Animale, the Bordeaux University Hospital and the National Veterinary School of Alfort (Enva). Ultimately, it could provide a complementary solution to screening for the disease.


The four pairs are volunteers and come from civilian backgrounds.

Claude Petit/”SOUTH WEST”

The Nosais method

The Cynocov project is based on the Nosaïs method of Professor Dominique Grandjean, of the Enva, whose objective is to put the olfactory skills of dogs at the service of human health. The question is simple: what if the Covid caused a change in body odor in the infected person?

The professor first tests the hypothesis in 2021 with firefighter dogs in Paris, and obtains a success rate of 95%. “I contacted him because I wanted to form our own regional brigade, and validate the scientific principle,” says Thierry Pistone, infectious disease specialist at the Bordeaux University Hospital.

The training of the four dogs began at the end of February 2022 at Pellegrin Hospital. “At the beginning there were a dozen of us, remembers Pauline Mazeau, Django’s human partner. We came three times a week for training sessions of about thirty minutes. » You have to interest the dog in the machine, by using the particular smell of a toy, associated with a treat. Gradually the team adds positive sweat to the Covid so that finally, this smell is associated with a reward. “Everything is based on the game”, summed up Pauline Mazeau.

Pauline Mazeau, and Django.


Pauline Mazeau, and Django.

Claude Petit/ “SOUTH WEST”

The validation phase

The last three weeks, the pairs have passed the validation phase. The tests were carried out using compresses containing the sweat of 300 participants, 200 negatives and 100 positives. The samples were taken in different ways. “The participants kept the compress for three minutes under their armpits, or spent five seconds on their neck”, specifies Thierry Pistone. Results: 90% success for the armpits and 80% for the neck. In September, the team will test the dogs’ ability to smell Covid on the masks.

The idea, ultimately, would be to offer an alternative to current detection methods. “People are fed up with swabs sticking in their noses, there needs to be freedom from the cumbersomeness of the tests, says Thierry Pistone. And the self-tests work half the time, so below the results obtained with dogs. »

At the end of July, the High Council for Public Health will give a scientific opinion. “If it is validated, then it will be up to the Ministry of Health to see how much they want to allocate to this project. », concludes Thierry Pistone.

Thierry Pistone infectious disease specialist at the Bordeaux University Hospital.


Thierry Pistone infectious disease specialist at the Bordeaux University Hospital.

Claude Petit/ “SOUTH WEST”

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