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how Could a dog detect the coronavirus? Apparently, the answer is a resounding yes. And since last few months, eight dogs are being carefully trained on the island of Corsica, in a new initiative of the French authorities to combat the pandemic of Covid-19. The results, by now, are extremely positive.

The initiative, which involved an international team of researchers under the direction of Dominique dr. grandjean, of the National School Veterinary of Alfort, in France, is to train the dogs with samples of sweat of people infected . A number of hospitals in Corsica provided to the researchers swabs previously placed under the armpits of infected patients and given after to smell the animals.

The next step was to mix the swabs “positive” with others free of the coronavirus. The dogs, as if it was a game they were, they had to mark the positive cases, an exercise that was repeated up to 50 times per day. is In case of success, the dog was rewarded with her favorite toy . In a later phase, the dogs were faced with real-world testing.

As explained in “The Conversation” Suzan Hazel and Anne-Lise Chaber, two researchers from the australian university of Adelaide who now want to apply the method in their country, trained dogs have proven to be able to detect a positive in the middle a row of negative samples, with an accuracy of 100 by 100. Similar tests are already performed in countries such as the united Arab Emirates, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Belgium.

What do they smell exactly the dogs?

The researchers say not sure what exactly that smell dogs to detect the SARS-Cov-2, since the volatile elements of the samples of sweat are a “complex mix”. It is even possible that the dogs are detecting a particular profile in place of individual compounds. The researchers decided to use the sweat for the tests, as it is not considered a source of infection and presents less risk to be manipulated.

Hazel and Chaber believe that these dogs could be of great utility in many settings, from airports and borders to hospitals or day care centres for the elderly, who would not be as well to repeat the tests every few days.

The duration of the process of training varies between 6 and 8 weeks that they need animals that have already been trained to detect other smells and between 3 and 6 months are needed for the dogs that have never received training of any kind.

During the training, and despite the fact that there are only a couple of cases around the world of dogs infected, the used device does not allow the direct contact between the nose of the dog and sweat samples. The snout, in fact, enters into a cone of stainless steel, with the sweat specimen is placed in a container located behind the cone, which allows access to the volatile components without the need of physical contact. As an additional precaution, all dogs are regularly subjected to various types of test to identify the possible presence of antibodies. Up to now, explain the researchers, “none of the detection dogs has been infected”.

The effort of scientists is now focused on finding out which compounds smell are specific to the infection by COVID-19, which will help to refine the technique and adapt it also to other diseases.

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