The dogs, which were trained at Hanover’s University of Veterinary Medicine, have been primed to pick up the ‘corona odour’ of infected cells, according to German armed forces vet Esther Schalke.
Some of the pandemic-fighting pups include Filou, a three-year-old Belgian Shepherd, and Joe Cocker, a one-year-old Cocker Spaniel.
‘We did a study where we had dogs sniffing samples from COVID-positive patients and we can say that they have a 94% probability in our study… that they can sniff them out,’ said Holger Volk, head of the veterinary clinic.
‘So dogs can really sniff out people with infections and without infections, as well as asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID patients,’ he added.
Hanover’s state head, Stephan Weil, was impressed with the study, and wanted further tests so the dogs could be put into use at everyday events, like concerts and fairs.
‘We now need tests in selected events,’ Mr Weil said.
Other trials have been underway with sniffer dogs: in Finland’s Helsinki airport, dogs were trained to detect coronavirus and then tested real passenger samples, alongside regular airport testing; Chile’s Santiago airport have also been trialling canine corona sniffers
Trained dogs can detect Covid-19 with close to 100% certainty, a study by the University of Helsinki’s Veterinary Faculty claims.
While the PCR test needs around 1.8 million molecules to identify the virus, dogs only need 10 to 100 molecules, Finnish airport operator Finavia said.
An eight-year-old greyhound mix named Kössi learned to identify the smell of coronavirus in just seven minutes.
Last year, scientists at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene began a trial to see if dogs trained to sniff coronavirus could help ease travel restrictions.
Claire Guest, chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, who supported the UK trial, said: ‘It is vital that we train our dogs to detect the odour of Covid-19 as soon as possible so we can help ensure people move about freely and safely.
‘The latest travel disruptions further highlight the difference the dogs could make.’