TULSA — For years now, dogs have been used to sniff out explosives and other weapons, help find dead or missing people, and more recently, they’ve been trained to detect medical conditions.
For example, dogs can monitor the blood sugar levels of diabetics, detect many forms of cancer, and even Parkinson’s disease.
So it may come as little surprise that quite a bit of research has gone into determining whether they can also detect COVID, and the research seems to indicate they definitely can.
Dr. Jennifer Rudd teaches Veterinary Medicine at OSU, and is a specialist in infectious disease, who has done quite a bit of research herself on the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19.
She says dogs can detect the equivalent of a single drop of liquid in the amount of water contained in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
During a recent news briefing held by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition, Dr. Rudd talked about the sensitivity of the canine sense of smell.
“The capacity for odor detection in a dog is anywhere between 10 to 100,000 times that of a human being,” Rudd said.
They detect disease or other medical conditions by detecting what are called “volatile organic compounds,” or VOCs.
A person’s breath, their sweat, any effluence from the body contains VOCs which dogs can detect, and differentiate.
And in some studies, the dogs actually proved they could apparently detect the disease earlier than the PCR COVID test used around the world.
In one study, she says, COVID was detected in humans who’d had a negative PCR test.
“And so they thought it was false positive, rechecked their viral PCR a few days later, and it came up positive on that next one,” Rudd said.
It’s unlikely that COVID-sniffing dogs will become a feature at airports, concerts, or other venues any time soon, but the Miami Heat N-B-A team has been using them since February - just one example of this research already being utilized in real life.
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