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Coronavirus-sniffing dogs have been recruited to vet passengers at Dubai airport

Coronavirus-sniffing dogs capable of detecting the infection with 92 per cent accuracy have been recruited to vet passengers at Dubai airport.

Currently all travellers arriving in the United Arab Emirates must be tested for Covid-19 prior to their trip before showing the confirmed negative result on arrival.

But Dubai International Airport has now also introduced the use of police sniffer dogs who are capable of detecting coronavirus among passengers within minutes. 

It comes as the UAE reported a total of 61,163 coronavirus cases and 351 deaths. 

In a statement, Dubai’s Ministry of Interior said: ‘Data and studies showed that detection of presumed Covid-19 cases achieved approximately 92 per cent in overall accuracy. 

‘Figures indicate that dogs can quickly detect infected cases, help protect key sites, effectively deal with huge crowds and secure large events, airports, etc.’ 

The process begins with a sample of body odor being taken from a passenger’s armpit before it is placed inside a container in an isolated room. 

The specially-trained dogs then sniff the samples through a funnel-like contraption and, if they detect coronavirus, the passenger is then directed to take the nasal PCR test. 

The dogs never come in direct contact with the passengers. 

Sniffer dogs have previously been used to detect several other diseases that can affect body odor such as cancer and malaria.  

Last month researchers from Germany trained army sniffer dogs to distinguish between samples of fluids from patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 and healthy donors.

In their study, the researchers trained eight Bundeswehr (German Army) detection dogs over the period of a week to detect the saliva and secretions from the lungs and windpipe of patients who had been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The team then explored whether dogs could distinguish between the samples from both infected and non-infected individuals in randomised tests where the dogs, their handlers and the supervising researcher did not know which samples was which.

After sniffing 1,012 samples, the researchers reported that those dogs had an accurate detection rate of around 94 per cent — with 157 correct positive identifications, 792 correct reflections of non-infected samples but 33 incorrect results. 

‘Dog odour detection is far better than the general public can imagine,’ said behavioural researcher and Bundeswehr dog trainer Esther Schalke.

‘Nevertheless, we were amazed at how quickly our dogs could be trained to recognise samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected people.’ 

‘The results of the study are incredibly exciting,’ said paper author and veterinarian Holger Volk, also of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover.

‘We have created a solid foundation for future studies to investigate what the dogs smell and whether they can also be used to differentiate between different times of illness or clinical phenotypes.’ 

Similarly a trial involving sniffer dogs was launched in the UK earlier this year with the backing of £500,000 in government funding. 

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