Canine Covid-19 Detectors

Dogs have incredible olfactory senses. Their sense of smell is ten thousand times more powerful than humans. This is why dogs have been used to successfully identify diseases such as cancer, diabetes, malaria and specific harmful bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa which commonly cause lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients, just by using their nose.


Now dogs are being used in some airports to detect Covid-19 in passengers, and studies around the world are testing and training these dogs so that they can be used more widely in society. The hope is that they can support rapid antigen testing, but more research is needed to confirm sensitivity and specificity (which is so far very close to the rapid antigen tests currently being used), and learn more about their mechanism of detection.


At the moment they are sniffing human sweat odour in order to detect the virus, and they can do this in mere seconds. If researchers can prove the accuracy of detection in not just symptomatic but asymptomatic people, canine detectors could be integral in stopping the spread of Covid-19.



de la Garza, A. (2020, October 9). “it’s a game for them.” scientists around the world are teaching dogs to sniff out COVID-19. Time.


Henley, J. (2020, September 24). “Close to 100% accuracy”: Helsinki airport uses sniffer dogs to detect Covid. The Guardian.


Kmietowicz, Z. (2020). Sixty seconds on . . . covid-19 sniffer dogs. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 370, m3758.


O’hare, R. (2019, August 15). Dog detectives sniff out harmful bacteria causing lung infections. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from

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