Dogs 97% effective in detecting COVID-19 in human sweat, according to French study

A sniffer dog is trained by a French firefighter to detect the coronavirus in Libourne on January 29, 2021 as part of a joint operation between the Bordeaux CHU and the CEVA animal health company to provide a method enabling the use of trained dogs i

It turns out man’s best friend may be one of the best ways to detect COVID-19 in humans according to a new French study.

Scientists at The National Veterinary School of Alfort published their findings Wednesday saying the ability of dogs to detect the coronavirus in sweat from people was "very promising."

The study was conducted from March 16 to April 9 in France and looked at two different tests to detect COVID-19: a nasopharyngeal swab and the canine olfactory test. More than 300 volunteers from 6 to 76 years old took part in the study that involved nine trained dogs and French firefighters from the United Arab Emirates.

The participants put compresses underneath their arms for two minutes. The compresses were then locked in a jar and sniffed by two different dogs who were not in contact with the participants. Researchers didn’t know at the time which compresses tested positive for COVID-19.

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Of the 335 participants tested, 109 had positive results based on their nasopharyngeal swabs.

The canine olfactory test also came back with a 97% efficacy.

"These are excellent results, comparable with those obtained with the reference test," Assistance-Publique des Hospitals of Paris Professor Jean-Marc Tréluyer told Agence-France Presse. "But the test with dogs is not meant to replace it, but rather to target people who should benefit from virological screening and facilitate mass screening because of the rapid response of dogs."

The study has not been published in a medical journal.

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The idea of using canines to sniff out the coronavirus isn’t a new concept. Researchers in several countries, including Australia, France, Germany the United States, are also studying canines as coronavirus detectors.

Last September, Finland deployed coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the Nordic country’s main international airport in a four-month trial of an alternative testing method that could become a cost-friendly and quick way to identify infected travelers.

"It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing," Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a University of Helsinki professor of equine and small animal medicine, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.