Airport Covid-Sniffing Dogs Appear To Be As Accurate As PCR Tests, With Instant Results

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)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Having enough trained dogs and dog-handler teams in sufficient volumes to do this kind of thing at airports is not going to be cheap, easy and quick.

    And when it comes to major airline flights from outstations to hubs, it’s even less likely that there are enough sniffer dog teams to do this kind of thing. And it becomes even harder to do when passenger volumes pick up.

    If Covid sniffer dogs turn out to be more accurate than tests using machines and this can be scaled up a lot, then those canine resources could be better used to try to pull off a Slovakia in mass testing the general population of an area in a very compressed period of time.

  2. I truly hope it pans out. Heck, could even have “drive-by” with doggies and get instant results. Fingers crossed!

  3. RT-PCR which stands for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction DOES NOT test for a virus. This article is a lie! The test only test for genetic material which is found in every living soul on the planet. Its a scam and the inventor of the test Kary Mullis stated you cannot use my test to diagnose infectious diseases. The inventor of the test said that and he was an American bio-chemist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for inventing the bloody test. He died last year at age 74. They are using this test fraudulently. What it does is take genetic material and amplifies it, in other words makes it larger. So at say 30/35 cycles of amplification you will test negative but when you raise the cycles of amplification to say 60/65 now you are bringing so much of the genetic material to the forefront that virtually everybody on the planet will test positive, NOT FOR A VIRUS but genetic material only. This is how the scam works. This is why the majority of people who take this stupid test have no symptoms because there is nothing bloody wrong with them at all.

  4. And hopefully, with a little luck, within a few days all the delusional anti-science wackos can go back under their rocks and out of sight when their leader and chief retweeter gets voted out of office. Then we can focus on the real world again instead of consipracies and imaginary evils.

  5. Please educate yourself before sprouting all these things as “facts”. Or at least read Wikipedia past the first paragraph. PCR tests for DNA based on a template. It doesn’t just detect genetic material but looks at sequences specific to the organism by amplifying segments specific to that organism. The COVID tests are qPCR tests, which stands for quantitative polymerase chain reaction which involves using a fluorescent dye to quantitatively determine how much of a sequence you have. Since DNA is a pair of complimentary chains, the number of copies double each cycle; this allows the instrument to plot and calculate a relative number of copies the sample started with. qPCR tests rarely go above 40 cycles and most positive hits are between 10-25 cycles. Also tests are rigorously tested with diagnosed COVID patient samples to ensure what constitutes as a positive as well as tested against for other common organisms that we contract such as other coronavirus, flu, respiratory viruses, etc. No test is 100% but it’s also not a crapshoot like you seem to imply.

    Fun fact: Kary Mullis did a shitload of LSD. Including apparently when he invented the process. Not going to deny that his PCR discovery was revolutionary but he really struggled to find as much relevance and impact in the latter parts of his career. Also he did a ton of LSD.

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