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Swiss Covid sniffer dogs being put to the test

The army already trains dogs to sniff out explosives and drugs. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Three dogs are being trained to sniff out people infected with coronavirus in Switzerland. If successful, the canines could be used to detect outbreaks in schools, offices, events and other crowded places.

This content was published on February 28, 2021 - 13:33
swissinfo.ch/mga

Dogs are also being trained this way in other countries. In Germany, tests have found that they can perform this task with a 94% success rate. This is because Covid-19 causes human body cells to change their odour.

The Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) group has started its own trial programme, reports the Tages Anzeiger newspaperExternal link. It is training a dog named Malinois from the Swiss army and two other canines from the United Nations Department of Safety and Security. It is hoped the results of the trial will be available by the end of March.

Using dogs to detect the virus could prove to be a cheaper, easier and less intrusive alternative to existing methods, HUG’s Manuel Schibler told the newspaper. A successful detection rate of over 90% would be as effective as laboratory testing.

To reduce the risk of infecting the dogs or handlers during the experiment, human sweat will be used to give the scent. This contains the distinctive odour but not the active virus.

Sniffer dogs could also be used at airports and train stations, but a final decision would have to be made at a political level.


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