The Helsinki airport ‘Covid-sniffing dogs’ pilot project has gotten a lot of press, but now we have more robust results:
Three dogs, named Kossi, ET and Miina, have sniffed swabs taken from 2,200 passengers in the month since the testing booth was set up at the airport’s arrivals hall, and have found the virus in 0.6 percent of travellers.
…”We have done 16-17,000 PCR tests at the airport and less than one percent are positive,” Timo Aronkyto, deputy mayor of Vantaa, told reporters. Compared to the results found by the dogs, “they are about the same, I don’t think there is a statistical difference,” Aronkyto said.
Earlier experiments suggested dogs had “close to 100 percent accuracy, up to five days earlier than a PCR test.” And the testing is painless, unlike a nasal swab. Instead, it’s just a swab of the skin that’s then put in front of the dog who “will quickly pass over a negative sample but will be attracted to a positive one.”
In addition to the Helsinki airport sniffer dogs are in use in the UAE, in France, Ruussia and also Chile.
Early results touting ‘100% accuracy’ were based on small sample sizes. Researchers are correlating positives with those from PCR tests to ensure they match. We should see published research by the end of the year.
United’s “Covid-free London flights” with mandatory virus testing prior to departure require passengers make a testing appointment in the airport prior to flight, which they say means passengers need to turn up 3 hours before departure. That means more time in the airport which lacks the same air filtration as the plane.
Ultimately if Covid-sniffing dogs would work, that could allow people to be sniffed on the way into the airport and could also open the possibility of having large events again. It amounts to universal and instantaneous testing, provided that training for both the dogs and their handlers could scale.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)
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