New Delhi: The Indian Army has trained two of its dogs – a chippiparai and a cocker spaniel – to detect Covid-19 cases by smelling urine and sweat samples of individuals. The Army held a live demonstration on Monday to demonstrate the dogs’ capabilities.
The dogs were trained on specific biomarkers emanating from urine and sweat samples of Covid-19 positive patients.
“Scientifically, it is evident that affected body tissues release unique volatile metabolic biomarkers which are used as disease signatures for detection of disease by the medical detection dogs,” said the Army in a statement.
“Various countries like Britain, Finland, Russia, France, the UAE, Germany, Lebanon have started training dogs for Covid-19 detection by screening passengers at airports and railway stations.”
Taking a leaf out of the global trends of using medical detection dogs for diseases like cancer, malaria, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, etc, the Army has undertaken trials for the detection of Covid-19 using dogs in controlled conditions, it said.
Positive and suspected samples were obtained from Military Hospital, Meerut cantonment, and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Subharti Medical College, Meerut, for the purpose of training.
According to Army vets, a concerted effort was made to train an indigenous Chippiparai and a Cocker Spaniel dog to detect the volatilome of Covid-19 infection by comparatory method.
“The sensitivity and specificity of both the dogs obtained from the screening of 279 urine and 267 sweat samples during the initial trial procedure were found to be very high,” the statement said.
After training, the dogs were deployed at a Transit Camp in Delhi for the screening of transients moving to the operational areas through the transit camp.
At least 3,000 samples have been screened so far. To date, 18 samples have been found positive by detection dogs.
“From the trials and operational deployment, it has been inferred that Covid-19 volatile metabolic biomarkers are within the threshold limit of olfactory detection capability of trained dog and can help in quick and real-time detection of disease. Keeping in mind the success of the trial, more dogs have been incorporated in training for Covid-19 detection,” the statement said.
It is probably the first time that the olfactory capability of canines has been exploited to detect tissues infected with pathogens releasing volatile metabolic biomarkers.
“The use of such canines in the detection of Covid-19 can assist in quick and real-time detection of the disease. The effort will turn out to be the part of detectable disease signatures, thereby paving the way forward for real-time detection of various medical diseases by use of trained medical detection dog,” the statement said.