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Dalian Economic & Technological Development Zone, 156, 21-30

    Dogs trained to sniff out COVID-19, but not scientific enough

    A research team in the UK has reportedly found that dogs with special training can sniff out the novel coronavirus, with an accuracy of up to 94 percent. Experts in China have said that the study has a reliable research basis, but the method is not scientific enough for it to be used as a way to screen for COVID-19 in people.

    The team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University announced the results of the first phase of this trial on Monday, showing that COVID-19 infection has a distinct smell which dogs can detect with incredible accuracy, according to the official website of the project. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

    The study used over 3,500 odor samples which were donated by the public and National Health Service (NHS) staff and involved training the dogs to distinguish between infected and uninfected people alongside odor analysis and modelling.

    The study found that the dogs were able to detect odor from individuals with the virus regardless of whether they had symptoms or not, as well as those with two different strains, and with both high and low viral loads.

    Experts in China said that the research basis for the study was reliable. "Among animals, dogs have a particularly good sense of smell," Yang Zhanqiu, a deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told on Monday. 

    "The virus itself is a colorless, tasteless thing that dogs can't smell. But after being infected with the virus, the human body's immune system will respond differently, and the smell of excrement is different, from which dogs can sniff out those who carry the COVID-19 virus," Yang said.

    However, Yang said that the method of using trained dogs to screen for COVID-19 could only be used as an indirect way rather than a direct way of affirming the infection in people.

    '"Using trained dogs to identify whether a person is infected with the COVID-19 virus is like checking the body temperature, just an indirect screening method, which is not scientific enough. To affirm whether a person is infected with the virus, a more direct and scientific method is to conduct nucleic acid testing," Yang noted.


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