Can Dogs be used to Detect COVID-19? Sense of smell is often unappreciated but in reality it is a very vital sense as it allows us to perform various things without even physically touching or seeing them. The ability to smell is a part of the chemosensory system. That has special sensory cells. They are located in the nasal cavity, they have nerve cells called olfactory cells which send information to your brain. Then the brain processes it and identifies what the specific smell of.
The sense of smell has been used for ages to know specific places or to remember things. It allows you to bring back memories. Study says it has smell has 65% accuracy as compared to that of vision which is 50%. Sometimes you enter the house and without even looking you can guess what’s for dinner because it has that familiar smell to it. It can stimulate emotions e.g. how you feel good after smelling the petrichor. It doesn’t stop their danger and the bad smells alert your brain to be attentive, so we can avoid the situation. So this gives us an overview how important the sense of smell.

Animals have a great sense of smell. They perform very important tasks thanks to their sense of smell. The prime examples are Elephants are aided by their trunks and it helps them in surviving the difficulties of the jungle, they can locate water up to 20 km away. Bears that use their sense of smell to hunt for food, danger, and their young ones. Their sense of smell is 2,100 times better than humans.
Now come the most common animal that is found among the humans are dogs. They also possess a heightened sense of smell because they have 300 million olfactory receptors which is almost twice as much as humans, they are often relied on their nose to perform lifesaving tasks. They also alert the owners about dangers e.g. trained dogs can locate a bomb. Not only that they can pick up human emotions as well so whenever you are sad or anxious it’s likely that your dogs are aware of it.

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This strong sense of smell is being used by doctors for a greater purpose. Dogs have been trained to detect different types of diseases in humans. Some dogs are being trained to detect Parkinson’s disease. During a test a dog selects 1 out of 4 shirts, one of which was worn by a Parkinson’s affected patient, and three of them were worn by a healthy person. The dogs also help the scientists in developing some early detection techniques, because they can expose the cancer cells through saliva and even breath. They even help you by telling you about the low blood sugar levels. They alert you about low or high blood sugar levels. These are obviously heightened through training.

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Now given the global scale of the COVID-19 everyone is trying to help however they can. Some scientists in the U.S are training dogs to detect COVID-19. They are using a technique known as Odor imprinting. Through this they can detect COVID-19 in people through their saliva and urine, they detect low concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Scientists are claiming that with training of 6 weeks dogs will be able to detect these VOCs. Once dogs get familiar and trained they will be able detect COVID-19 in patients, each individual dog can screen up to 250 people per hour. These are still early stages the scientist are even unsure if it has a specific odor or not, but dogs are known for detecting even the small changes in human physiology such as fever etc. If there is a specific odor this could help in prevention of the spread of disease. Trained dogs could be deployed at public areas such as airports so they can look for persons that might be positive with this disease. This would be fast, non-invasive and a cheap way to detect COVID-19 as most of the world economy is being affected by the pandemic. Dogs can help us in containing Do you have any suggestions that can provide such a simple and inexpensive solution? Do you think scientists will be able to perform this feat by training the dogs to detect COVID-19? Because in these stressful time by we can prevail only by standing together and helping each other out.

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Written by…

M. Ahmad Zia

M. Ahmad Zia is a technology entrepreneur and a researcher in healthcare technology. Click the link below to get in touch with him.

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