A Labrador Test Instead of a Lab Test For COVID-19

Researchers are having good luck training dogs to sniff out the coronavirus
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2021 10:05 AM CDT
A Labrador Test Instead of a Lab Test For COVID-19
A dog trainer watches Bobby, a Labrador retriever, sniff samples of human sweat through containers to detect coronavirus at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Friday.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Quick—which would you prefer? A close encounter with a friendly pooch, or a cotton swab up your nose? Researchers have found that dogs trained to sniff out the virus that causes COVID-19 are pretty accurate and extremely fast, Reuters reports. It takes just 2 months or so to train a medical detection dog. Once trained, the dogs can screen crowds at large events, venues, or airports. Dogs aren’t doctors, and the sniff test would have to be confirmed with a PCR test and a quarantine—a Labrador’s work would be backed up with lab work. But that initial screen takes less than a second, the Guardian reports.

The coronavirus isn’t the only human ailment a dog can detect. Dog noses are miraculous compared to human noses, and besides drugs and explosives, they can sniff out cancer, E. coli, malaria, and Parkinson’s disease, among other things, per the BBC. As for COVID-19, dogs in a recent trial done by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Durham caught 88% of cases. That’s not a perfect score, but it’s better than nothing, making it a good option for places where PCR testing would be impractical or impossible, like in a travel hub. (More uplifting news stories.)

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