Researchers at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Veterinary Sciences have trained dogs to capture the unique odor that people with COVID-19 release in their sweat. Three of six of these special dogs are named Angel, Bobby and Bravo. Since May 10, the three have tested over 1,000 samples from college staff, students, and people outside the university. So far, the results are impressive: the success rate is almost 95%.
After a few seconds of sniffing sweat samples placed in metal containers, dogs can determine which people have COVID-19. If there is no evidence of infection, the dog will walk past the sample. If he is positive, he will sit in front of him.
Professor Kaivali Chatdarong, head of the research team, said she knew other countries had used dogs to detect the coronavirus, including Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and India, but she had no idea if that would work in Thailand due to acute and aromatic country cuisine.
Suwanna Tanabunsombat, a volunteer collecting samples for delivery to the laboratory, added that test dogs are very convenient as they can test people who cannot get tested.
“People can just put cotton balls in their armpits to collect sweat samples and send them to the laboratory. And the result will be pretty accurate.”
Suwanna Tanabunsombat, volunteer
Researchers plan to send a team of dogs to communities suspected of being the new hotspots for COVID-19. The dogs will work inside the mobile unit, while the sampling team can comb the local community to collect samples.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs are among the small number of pets that can become infected with the coronavirus, mainly after close contact with people with COVID-19. It states that the risk of human exposure to the virus from animals is considered low.
Thai researchers said that as a precaution, they designed the sample containers so that the dogs’ nose would not touch the samples. They also believe that receptors on canine airway cells are not a conducive environment for coronavirus attack.