Scientist in protective gear holding test tube for dog to sniff

Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images 


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NCSS: Science, Technology, and Society • Global Connections


Super Sniffers

This pooch is being trained by researchers in Iran to perform a lifesaving task—sniffing out Covid-19 in humans. The dog is one of many around the globe being taught to detect the disease to help prevent its spread. (Thanks to vaccines, the infection rate has dropped in the United States in recent months, yet the pandemic remains a major threat worldwide.)

Early studies show that dogs may be more than up to the job. In training, they have detected the virus that causes Covid-19 with amazing accuracy—even in people who had no symptoms. They can sniff out an infection in one second. 

Researchers hope dogs can be used to help identify infected people in crowded places like airports and stadiums. They may also help pinpoint Covid hotspots where the virus is still surging. 

It’s no surprise that dogs have been called in to help. Known for their powerful sense of smell, they have been used for decades to uncover explosives and illegal drugs. Dogs have also been trained to detect diseases, including certain types of cancer. 

Experts say more research is needed to determine how well Covid-19-sniffing dogs perform in real-life settings. Still, some are already on the job. For example, they have been working at some pro sports games in the U.S., as well as at airports in Finland.

Notice & Wonder

• What details from this photograph stand out to you?

• What questions do you have about it? 

• What does the photo suggest about the Covid-19 pandemic?

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