Dogs are a lot of things.
Loyal. Silly. Brave. Shy. Noisy. Sleepy. Many people's best friends, and even heroes.
But if they have one trait that shines above them all, it's probably this: Their sense of smell.
Dogs are able to locate extremely minute (or tiny) changes in the air they breathe—they can notice changes in odour at around one part per billion and have noses 1,000 times more sensitive than ours. Their sense of smell is so strong, they can even detect the presence of infections and conditions in humans, including malaria, cancer, and epilepsy.
Several recent studies have proven this to be true. And now, a new one from the London School of Tropical Medicine has proven that dogs can even sniff out asymptomatic cases of the disease (an asymptomatic carrier of COVID is a person who shows no outward signs of the virus, such as fever, shortness of breath, or cough). Overall, dogs could sniff out between 94 to 82 percent of COVID cases.
This discovery could be more than just an interesting fact to tell your friends ("Hey, did you know...?!"). It could change how we screen for infection.
Screening by dog
Trained dogs are already used at places like airports to screen for illegal items being carried in people's luggage. Why not have dogs there to help screen passengers for COVID, too?
"The key thing is that dogs are significantly quicker than other tests," said researcher James Logan in an interview with ScienceAlert. "What we're suggesting is that dogs would give the first initial screening, and then those (arrivals) that were indicated as positive would then receive a complimentary PCR test."
(PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction—this is the standard swab test that we use to test for COVID.)
In other words, though dogs aren't as accurate as a PCR test, they're much, much faster. Using them could eliminate the need for travelers to quarantine when going from country to country. Currently in most countries, visitors need to isolate for around two weeks in a hotel room before they can be a part of society.
Though further testing needs to be done, this may be a way for us to move back to a world that looks more like the one we knew before the pandemic.
Hey, thanks, Sparky! We love your nose!