Colombia initiates pilot project with sniffer dogs for COVID-19 detection

Medellín has decades of experience training canines to sniff-out illegal drugs, contraband foods and explosives. While working the frontline of narcotics interception at airports and other entry points continue, researchers from the Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Nacional and the University of Wisconsin have teamed up on a project to teach sniffer dogs how to detect the odor of COVID-19 in symptomatic individuals.

Joining other similar studies around the world in which dogs can detect infectious diseases, cancers and Parkinson’s with incredible accuracy, six dogs are in training sessions at a facility in La Ceja, 60 kilometers southeast of the Antioquian capital, to become diagnostic assistants. The objective is to increase COVID-19 detection capacity among 100 dogs.

According to doctor and researcher Ómar Vesga Meneses, to carry out the project, saliva samples were taken from 12 patients infected with coronavirus and receiving treatment at San Vicente Fundación hospital in Medellín. Although dogs have outstanding metrics in diagnosing 99% of negative cases, the investigation is currently focusing on persons with confirmed cases of coronavirus.

If findings from the project are conclusive, the dogs can help health authorities identify clusters of the disease in hospitals, airports, nursing homes and public spaces, including football stadiums.