Science | May 31, 2021 10:53 pm

Dogs Are Now Being Trained to Sniff for COVID-19

Initial results are encouraging

A very good dog
COVID-19 may be the next thing dogs can sniff out.
Ricardo Moura/Unsplash

Dogs have been used to sniff out cancer, diabetes and even dementia. Dogs have also been enlisted to seek out bed bugs. What’s the next area where dogs can help make the world a better place. (That is, aside from simply being Very Good Dogs in general.) Turns out the next thing that dogs have developed a skill for finding is very relevant these days. Yes, coronavirus-sniffing dogs are now a thing.

At The New York Times, Hannah Beech explored a new initiative in Thailand, where Labrador retrievers are being used to detect COVID-19 cases. That comes with encouraging news — Beech reports that several preliminary studies have indicated that dogs might be more accurate than rapid antigen tests.

Dr. Anne-Lise Chaber of the University of Adelaide in Australia told the Times that dogs are able to detect COVID-19 when it’s in its incubation phase — and they can do so immediately. The hope of the scientists involved with the training program is that dogs can be used to detect people who might be carrying the coronavirus in public spaces like arenas and transit stations.

The effort is international in its scope. Beech cites “Thailand, the United States, France, Britain, Chile, Australia, Belgium and Germany” among the nations working on seeing just how good dogs are at detection. The whole article is fascinating, and offers a degree of detail in what this could mean as far as containing and managing the pandemic. Plus: friendly dogs are involved. It’s hard to argue with that.