Man’s best friend has found another way to help out.

By Austin Cannon
September 23, 2020
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Manuel-F-O / Getty

Add this to the infinite list of good things dogs do: Potentially detecting coronavirus carriers and saving lives. 

Researchers in Finland will deploy up to 10 dogs to the Helsinki airport. There, they will sniff sweat samples from travelers and signal which ones potentially have COVID-19, the Washington Post reports. People will swab their necks to collect the sweat sample and then deposit it in an opening in a wall for the dogs to sniff. 

Back in May, researchers at the University of Helsinki found preliminary evidence that dogs can “reliably and quickly identify a COVID-19 positive human.” Scientists in the United States and United Arab Emirates are exploring canine detection, too. The Post reports that dogs in Dubai were more than 90 percent accurate in detecting the virus in sweat samples from randomly selected air passengers. 

The Finland airport’s pilot program—heh—began Wednesday. The Associated Press reports that four dogs—ET, Kossi, Miina, and Valo—are ready to start sniffing while six more are in training. (Six more didn’t make it through the training, but they’re still good boys and girls.)

The pups should be able to give their results within 10 seconds, taking up less than a minute of the travelers’ time, the Post writes. The tests are also voluntary (and free) and the people who submit a sweat sample will also be asked to take a more traditional COVID-19 test to see whether the dogs are accurate. 

One researcher, Anna Hielm-Björkman, however, said the dogs could be more accurate than the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus tests, which is usually administered through a nasal or throat swab. The dogs may also detect the virus before a PCR test would, she says, according to the Post. 

“It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing,” Hielm-Bjorkman tells the Associated Press.

More funding and accurate results will be needed to expand the program and to find out whether the dogs—which take awhile to train—can be used on a wider scale.