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Science News: Man’s best friend helps fight the COVID-19 pandemic

– K.J., Editor

Dogs have always helped humans by herding livestock, providing companionship, and assisting persons with disabilities to maintain a more healthy and independent lifestyle. Dogs are not only cute and make people feel good, they are recently becoming more involved in the research of human diseases. But why dogs? The reason is that compared to the 6 million olfactory receptors in the human nose, a dog’s nose has 300 million! With training, dogs can smell cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis, and even malaria.

Since 2020, scientists have been researching reliable and valid methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans, but rapid antigen-tests have been unreliable for detection in persons with low viral load and PCR tests can be expensive and take a long time to produce results. Thus, faster and more accurate testing methods are necessary.

That’s where dogs come in. They are highly skilled at detecting SARS-CoV-2 in humans! Researchers from a study in PLOS One reported that trained dogs were able to identify 97% of coronavirus cases that had been previously detected by PCR tests from 335 human sweat samples and even found all of the 31 positive cases from a cohort of 192 asymptomatic subjects. This method would be very beneficial in crowded places such as train stations and schools and in places where conventional testing methods are expensive and time-consuming.

Unlike the discomfort and anxiety that people may feel when having to take PCR and rapid antigen tests, dogs give a sense of calm and happiness, which would make the testing process a positive experience. Though more research into this method is necessary and training the dogs may take time, this method is definitely a great idea! Dogs have been and will always continue to be good for humankind and deserve to be called our best friends.

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