Thousands of times sensitive nasal prowess of dogs are being put to use in Helsinki airport to trace the presence of the dreaded novel coronavirus, with ‘almost 100% accuracy.’
Four specialized pooches have started their duty at the airport in Finland’s capital to sniff out COVID, under a pilot project by the Finnish government which hopes to ensure a cheap, fast, and effective screening in high-traffic airports.
“If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places,” said Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial.
The pilot project was scheduled to start from Tuesday, and as per Airport Director Ulla Lettijeff from Finavi – the public authority responsible for developing Finland’s airport infrastructure – “no other airport has attempted to use canine scent detection on such a large scale against COVID-19.”
COVID-19 dogs, if turn out to be reliable, could make screening the virus as easy as passing under a metal detector in places like sporting events, hospitals, religious places, and so on apart from international inlets like airports.
As per preliminary tests by the University of Helsinki, dogs are able to sniff out the virus almost 100% accurately every time and at a pace even before symptoms start to persists – something that lab tests fail to do.
A specialized sniffing dog is capable of tracking the virus infection within 10 seconds, and the entire process can be done with under a minute, The Guardian reported.
Furthermore, Helsinki airport also says, a COVID-19 dog can trace the virus from a much smaller sample than PCR tests done by health care professionals.
For instance, where a PCR test needs 18,000,000 molecules, a dog can do the same job with just 10-100 molecules! Scientists still don’t know how and what makes dogs do this magical stuff.
Some studies have found that the smell of sweat of a COVID-19 patient differs from that of healthy individuals, which dogs can determine.
This is not the first time dogs are being used to trace the presence of a virus or a disease in humans. Pooches have proven to detect the presence of cancer and diabetes in people with 100% accuracy, even ahead of the symptoms stars to persist.
In the case of the Helsinki International airport, after the international passengers arrive, they are given a wet wipe to dab their necks.
The dog is then made to sniff the wipe contained in a jar, placed alongside other scents, and if found infected the dog usually signals by lying down pawing, or yelping.
If the dog tests turn out positive, the passenger is then advised to go for a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test using a nasal swab to crosscheck the canine’s verdict.
Helsinki airport’s dog sniffing infrastructure is reportedly less pricey than a lab-testing infrastructure for a similar purpose, costing €300,000 (£274,000/ $3,49,299.00).
Finland may be the first nation in Europe to begin this trial, Dubai International Airport started a similar trial last month.