The KV Oostende football club, in coordination with K9 Detection Belgium, found that dogs could detect coronavirus in a person on the first day of infection, often a full week ahead of a traditional PCR test.
When trained dogs sniffed a swab that was taken from the armpit instead of up the nose, they were able to identify the presence of the coronavirus with an accuracy that was in line with the traditional PCR 99.5% of the time, according to De Standaard.
The results come after several months of experimentation in which players were regularly administered an armpit swab that was then sniffed by two dogs.
“There were players who tested negative via PCR, but were found to be positive with us [via the dogs]. Eight or nine days later, they turned out to be positive,” says the football club. “If they had followed our result, the infected player would have gone into quarantine earlier and the virus would not have spread further in the group of players.”
Covid-sniffing dogs are already being used in airports in Finland and the UAE, as well as by federal police in Belgium, who employ them in elderly care homes as well as airports.
The tracking dogs are unlikely to replace the PCR test in the short term, but the football club is hoping it could be a viable method for readmitting fans to games.
“Having a few thousand people take a PCR test before they are allowed to come to football is not financially and practically impossible,” the club points out. “We must take hold of every possibility to reopen our lives.”
KV Oostende had a number of corona cases in January, but players are now testing negative.
Professor Chris Callewaert of the University of Ghent, a specialist in microbial ecology, began researching the possibility of coronavirus detecting dogs last summer.