Dogs could be used to sniff out Covid cases in mass gatherings, study finds

Dogs could be used to sniff out people with asymptomatic coronavirus at airports and mass events, a study has found.

10 canines were trained to smell the virus on sweat, saliva and urine in a German Armed Forces study.

The dogs, who sniffed more than 5,000 samples, were able to detect Covid-19 from human urine with 95% accuracy.

This fell to 91% when smelling sweat and 82% when smelling saliva.

Researchers say dogs could be used to quickly identify people in large groups who are Covid-19 positive.

Boris Johnson’s Covid roadmap could allow up to 4,000 people to gather outdoors and up to 1,000 indoors from May 17 at the earliest.

This would go up to 10,000 people for mass outdoor seated events such as football matches.

Taking part in the study were five Malinois, three Labrador Retrievers, one German Shepherd and one Dutch shepherd crossbreed. They were aged between one and nine, and six were female.

Dogs have previously been used to identify diseases from samples and can provide “reliable and immediate results”, according to researchers.

The researchers wrote: "The pandemic has led to enormous restrictions and sanctions affecting public as well as private life.

"Containing this global pandemic requires a high rate of testing, as an effective tool to contain viral spread.

"Scent detection dogs could be a reasonable option for a first line screening method in public facilities such as airports or during major events as well as in retirement homes or medical institutions that would be real-time, effective, economical, effortless and non-invasive."

Sweat samples came from people wiping their armpit with a cotton pad, with the samples then deep frozen in a laboratory at minus 80C until the day of testing.

The dogs' sniffing skills will now need to be tested in real-world events to see how they fare.

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