In Finland, dogs were trained to recognize a specific smell COVID-19

В Финляндии собак научили распознавать специфический запах COVID-19

Scientists hope that this will help to identify infected persons at airports and homes and the elderly.

During a pilot study at the University of Helsinki is specifically trained to recognize diseases of dogs taught to sniff out unknown odor pathogen COVID-19. And thus – with remarkable success: within a few weeks the first dog was able with certainty to distinguish urine samples of patients COVID-19 patients from healthy people.

“We have a large experience in training dogs to detect disease,” says Anna Hielm of Bjorkman, associate Professor of the veterinary faculty of the University of Helsinki, writes DW.

“But it was fantastic to see how quickly they learned to recognize the new scent,” adds the researcher.

Already after a short time the animals identified infection with SARS-CoV-2 with almost the same precision as the PCR tests.

Such promising results from Finland are also important for other groups of researchers, in particular from Britain and France, who also train dogs to detect coronavirus. Colleagues from the German center for dogs (Deutsches Assistenzhunde-Zentrum) also benefit from the results of the Finnish studies. “No one could us to say with confidence, safe or dangerous to humans and dog training with an aggressive pathogen. We first wanted to gather more information before you start training, because the German virologists dissuaded us from this – in the end, still about the virus very little is known,” explains a representative of the center of the Bow Barrett.

Now Finnish scientists are preparing for the next phase of the study, during which dogs will recognize a greater number of patient samples.

Whence the peculiar smell of the disease

While it is unclear which substances in the urine is likely to emit characteristic COVID-19 smell. Since SARS-CoV-2 affects not only the lungs but also causes damage to blood vessels, kidneys and other organs, the smell of urine of patients, too, may change that dogs immediately notice thanks to their highly sensitive olfactory organs.

Some diseases have an odor that trained dogs can sniff it with impressive accuracy. “For example, breast cancer dog, according to studies, can identify with an accuracy of 93 percent and lung cancer – with an accuracy of 97 percent,” says Barrett. In addition, dogs with high reliability can identify skin cancer, bowel, ovarian or prostate cancer. “In recent years, the percentage of accuracy increased significantly, whereas at the beginning of training, he was not so high,” adds Barrett.

In addition to cancer, dogs can also distinguish Parkinson’s disease. Patients with this disease differently, even for years before they develop the disease. Therefore, dogs can be used as a kind of system of early diagnostics of Parkinson’s disease, explains co-founder of the center dogs. Dogs are also trained to recognize malaria, but the accuracy is still poor – still dogs recognize 7 out of 10 cases of the disease. A high percentage of accuracy, says Barrett, is also necessary during training, dogs with aggressive pathogen of SARS-CoV-2.

She hopes that the dogs that will complete training, will be able with greater accuracy to identify the virus.

The organs of smell in the dog developed about a million times better than humans. In humans about five million olfactory cells, whereas the fees of their 125 million, and a dog 220 million. Dogs make short up to 300 breaths per minute, so their olfactory cells are continuously perceive new odour particles. In addition, the right and left nostrils dogs perceive odors differentially, because of this, they can spatially perceive the smell and, accordingly, to follow the trail.

During training dogs – mostly Labrador retrievers, retrievers in General and Cocker spaniels and different breeds of dogs are taught to recognize any one of the odors. It could be drugs or explosives, or the smell of a certain disease. I mean, the dog cannot recognize several types of cancer.

In practice, specially trained dogs are used not only for detection of drugs or explosives, but also in hospitals. For example, they sniff patients with suspected skin cancer. Of course, with the consent of the patients themselves. Thus dogs with a good nose can help in the early diagnosis of the disease.

Now, however, in medicine attracted very few dogs. The owners work almost always on a voluntary basis, and the animals themselves live in ordinary houses. Skepticism, especially from the medical offices and representatives of classical medicine, is very large. This is despite the fact that filed after dog signs still need to be further tests and that due to the early diagnosis of cancer can save a lot of time and financial costs.

Favor in the fight against coronavirus

if the results of a study conducted in Finland, will be further confirmation of a dog with an extremely sensitive sense of smell can be a big help in the fight against coronavirus. Luke Barrett from German assistant center dogs can well imagine how trained dogs can be used in places with high risk of infection, for example, during an inspection at the entrance to football games or during other major events. Or also on arrival at the airport, where dogs in the queue can “sniff out” presumably infected passengers. Of course, such passengers still have to be conducted medical test, adds Barrett.

In addition, she said, dogs can be attracted to the search for the virus on surfaces. For example, prior to passengers boarding the plane four-legged can check on Board the coronavirus. Or also conduct inspections in medical practices or homes for the elderly, where there were cases of coronavirus, before the premises can be re-used with confidence that they are “pure.”

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