Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Detection of post-COVID-19 patients using medical scent detection dogs : a pilot study

There is a growing number of COVID-19 patients experiencing long-term symptoms months after their acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Previous research proved dogs' ability to detect acute SARS-CoV-2 infections, but has not yet shown if dogs also indicate samples of patients with post-COVID-19 condition (Long COVID). Nine dogs, previously trained to detect samples of acute COVID-19 patients, were confronted with samples of Long COVID patients in two testing scenarios. In test scenario I (samples of acute COVID-19 vs. Long COVID) dogs achieved a mean sensitivity (for acute COVID-19) of 86.7% (95%CI: 75.4–98.0%) and a specificity of 95.8% (95%CI: 92.5–99.0%). When dogs were confronted with Long COVID and negative control samples in scenario IIa, dogs achieved a mean sensitivity (for Long COVID) of 94.4 (95%CI: 70.5–100.0%) and a specificity of 96.1% (95%CI: 87.6–100.0%). In comparison, when acute SARS-CoV-2 positive samples and negative control samples were comparatively presented (scenario IIb), a mean sensitivity of 86.9 (95%CI: 55.7–100.0%) and a specificity of 88.1% (95%CI: 82.7–93.6%) was attained. This pilot study supports the hypothesis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being long-term present after the initial infection in post-COVID-19 patients. Detection dogs, trained with samples of acute COVID-19 patients, also identified samples of Long COVID patients with a high sensitivity when presented next to samples of healthy individuals. This data may be used for further studies evaluating the pathophysiology underlying Long COVID and the composition of specific VOC-patterns released by SARS-CoV-2 infected patients throughout the course of this complex disease.


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