Airline travellers arriving in Finland are being checked over by a team of four sniffer dogs to see if they are carrying coronavirus.
Finnish researchers are hopeful the dogs will prove to be faster and more accurate then conventional tests.
It’s been established that people without any Covid-19 symptoms are capable of spreading the virus, and nasal swabs and temperature tests can be inaccurate and time-consuming.
But in preliminary tests, the dogs were able to identify the virus with almost 100% accuracy, even before a patient developed symptoms.
It isn’t entirely clear how the dogs are detecting the virus although a study from the Alfort school of veterinary medicine in France suggests they can detect changes in the smell of infected people’s sweat.
The Finnish dogs can detect the scent of coronavirus on a person within 10 seconds and traveller can be checked and cleared in under a minute, according to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is leading the trial.
“It’s very promising,” she told the Guardian.
“If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places,” she continued.
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For the trial, passengers arriving at Helsinki Airport are asked to dab their skin with a wipe.
The wipes are put in containers and given to the dogs.
If they detect the virus animals will yelp, or make other signs to indicate a positive reaction.
If travellers fail the sniff test, they’re then asked to take a nose-swab test to confirm the doggy decision.
Finnish authorities say the four-month pilot programme, which is due to last four months, will cost around €300,000 (£274,000) , making it significantly cheaper laboratory-based testing methods, as well as faster and less intrusive.
A similar trial started at Dubai international airport last month, and similar research is under way in Australia, France, Germany and Britain.
Dogs have been successfully used in the past to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as spotting malaria and even the early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
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