In what is the first of its kind initiative, the Indian army is training a dozen-odd Chippiparai, Labrador and Cocker Spaniel dogs to sniff out traces of COVID-19 in the sweat and urine samples of potentially infected troops.
The idea behind this is quick and real-time detection of the disease, while cutting down on RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests both of which take time and are likely to give false results.
A recent study has found that dogs can detect COVID-19 among humans in less than a second – much faster than a PCR test which can take hours to make the diagnosis.
The reason is not too difficult to guess. A dog has around 125 to 300 million scent glands, as compared to humans who have around 5 million scent glands. This means a dog’s sense of smell is around 1,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s.
Dogs’ have the ability to detect the smell of different human diseases and save lives. This can help scientists develop faster and cheaper ways to detect diseases, such as cancers, neurological diseases and bacterial infections — earlier than is currently possible.
According to research people with COVID-19 tend to give off a particular odour. The specially trained dogs can identify the “corona odour” in people infected with the coronavirus. The dogs can sniff out coronavirus with up to 94 per cent efficacy even in people who are asymptomatic and or with a low viral load.
Even though this is the first time canines are being used for medical detection in India, dogs are routinely being used to detect Covid-19 and a host of other diseases like malaria, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease in the USA, UK, Finland, France, Russia, Germany, Lebanon, and UAE.
In many countries across the world, dogs are used for the detection of diseases such as cancer, malaria, diabetes. Countries like France, Germany, UK and Australia are using trained dogs to screen passengers for COVID-19 at airports and railway stations.
The Dubai airport was the first to deploy a dog quad to detect COVID cases. Samples from passengers are taken to another room where they are sniffed by dogs to find out the status in less than one minute.
The working life of such trained detection dogs is 6–9 years. The dogs are retired before they become unable to perform or are too old or sick to continue working.
As things stand; dogs are no more than just pets but companions that help save lives.