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Using trained dogs and organic semi-conducting sensors to identify asymptomatic and mild SARS-CoV-2 infections: an observational study

Guest, C; Dewhirst, SY; Lindsay, SW; Allen, DJ; Aziz, S; Baerenbold, O; Bradley, J; ... Allsop, L; + view all (2022) Using trained dogs and organic semi-conducting sensors to identify asymptomatic and mild SARS-CoV-2 infections: an observational study. Journal of Travel Medicine , 29 (3) , Article taac043. 10.1093/jtm/taac043. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: A rapid, accurate, non-invasive diagnostic screen is needed to identify people with SARS-CoV-2 infection. We investigated whether organic semi-conducting (OSC) sensors and trained dogs could distinguish between people infected with asymptomatic or mild symptoms, and uninfected individuals, and the impact of screening at ports-of-entry. METHODS: Odour samples were collected from adults, and SARS-CoV-2 infection status confirmed using RT-PCR. OSC sensors captured the volatile organic compound (VOC) profile of odour samples. Trained dogs were tested in a double-blind trial to determine their ability to detect differences in VOCs between infected and uninfected individuals, with sensitivity and specificity as the primary outcome. Mathematical modelling was used to investigate the impact of bio-detection dogs for screening. RESULTS: About, 3921 adults were enrolled in the study and odour samples collected from 1097 SARS-CoV-2 infected and 2031 uninfected individuals. OSC sensors were able to distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals and uninfected, with sensitivity from 98% (95% CI 95–100) to 100% and specificity from 99% (95% CI 97–100) to 100%. Six dogs were able to distinguish between samples with sensitivity ranging from 82% (95% CI 76–87) to 94% (95% CI 89–98) and specificity ranging from 76% (95% CI 70–82) to 92% (95% CI 88–96). Mathematical modelling suggests that dog screening plus a confirmatory PCR test could detect up to 89% of SARS-CoV-2 infections, averting up to 2.2 times as much transmission compared to isolation of symptomatic individuals only. CONCLUSIONS: People infected with SARS-CoV-2, with asymptomatic or mild symptoms, have a distinct odour that can be identified by sensors and trained dogs with a high degree of accuracy. Odour-based diagnostics using sensors and/or dogs may prove a rapid and effective tool for screening large numbers of people. Trial Registration NCT04509713 (clinicaltrials.gov).

Type: Article
Title: Using trained dogs and organic semi-conducting sensors to identify asymptomatic and mild SARS-CoV-2 infections: an observational study
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/jtm/taac043
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/jtm/taac043
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Society of Travel Medicine. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com
Keywords: COVID-19, infection control, public health, rapid screening, Animals, Asymptomatic Infections, COVID-19, Dogs, Humans, Mass Screening, SARS-CoV-2, Sensitivity and Specificity, Volatile Organic Compounds
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health > Infection and Population Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10152416
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