Early detection of COVID-19 is key, as someone infected with the virus can go two weeks without showing any symptoms, causing them to be a “superspreader” without even knowing it. In order to help detect the virus and stop the spread, scientists are now utilizing man’s best friend.

Manufacturing of COVID-19 test kits is a time-consuming process due to their complexity, so utilizing the sharp sense of a canine’s snout may be an effective way to expedite the detection process.  

Cape Times reports that scientists in France are using dogs as an alternative method in diagnosing COVID-19. A group of researchers at the National Veterinary School of Alfort outside Paris trained eight Belgian Malinois shepherd dogs to identify people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Their trials found that the canines were remarkably adept at  detecting the presence of the virus.

In the experiments, the French researchers used sweat samples from a 360-person sample group containing both people who were positive for the virus and people who were negative. The dogs had a 95% overall success rate in being able to detect COVID-19. 

"This proof-of-concept study provides evidence according to which the axillary sweat of SARS-CoV-2-infected people can be detected by trained dogs,” the scientists wrote in their analysis of the results, referring to the name of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

They also wrote that dog olfactive detection was a cheap, fast and reliable “tool” which could be used in a pre-screening process for testing or possibly as a means to provide a quicker check for the virus than standard tests.

"The next step is to carry out a validation study with the same dogs of this proof-of-concept study which will provide the sensibility and specificity of the dog’s diagnosis,” said the researchers.

Earlier this year in the UK, the British charity Medical Detection Dogs teamed up with scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University in northeastern England to test whether dogs may be able to detect COVID-19 through their sharp sense of smell and therefore able to assist with diagnosing coronavirus. 

In the past, canines have been able to detect the scents of diseases such as malaria, which researchers suggest has a distinct odor, as do other illnesses. This means that in principle, dogs would also be able to detect the COVID-19 coronavirus, and could potentially be trained to tell if someone has a fever, similar to the abilities of most service dogs.