Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Canine real-time detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the context of a mass screening event


Previous research demonstrated thatmedical scent detection dogs have the ability to distinguish SARS-CoV-2 positive from negative samples with high
diagnostic accuracy. To deploy these dogs as a reliable screening method, it is mandatory to examine if canines maintain their high diagnostic accuracy in real-life
screening settings. We conducted a study to evaluate the performance of medical scent detection dogs under real-life circumstances.

Eight dogs were trained to detect SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR-positive samples. Four concerts with a total of 2802 participants were held to evaluate canines’ performance in screening individuals for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Sweat samples were taken from all participants and presented in a line-up setting. In addition, every participant had been tested with a SARS-CoV- 2 specific rapid antigen test and a RT-qPCR and they provided information regarding age, sex, vaccination status and medical disease history. The participants’ infection status was unknown at the time of canine testing. Safety measures such as mask wearing and distance keeping were ensured.


The SARS-CoV-2 detection dogs achieved a diagnostic specificity of 99.93% (95% CI 99.74% to 99.99%) and a sensitivity of 81.58% (95% CI 66.58% to 90.78%), respectively. The overall rate of concordant results was 99.68%. The majority of the study population was vaccinated with varying vaccines and vaccination schemes, while several participants had chronic diseases and were under chronic medication. This did not influence dogs’ decisions.


Our results demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 scent detection dogs achieved high diagnostic accuracy in a real-life scenario. The vaccination status, previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, chronic disease and medication of the participants did not influence the performance of the dogs in detecting the acute infection. This indicates that dogs provide a fast and reliable screening option for public events in which high-throughput screening is required.


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