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Diagnostic Dogs

A diagnostic test is a type of test that is used to help discover what disease or illness a person has. For example, an X-ray is a type of diagnostic test that looks at a person’s bones.

A new study is being done at the University of Pennsylvania that looks at whether dogs can be used as a diagnostic test to find out whether people have COVID-19.

Scientists had an idea to find out whether human diseases each have their own scent, called “odorprints.” Dogs have a very good sense of smell that is much better than a human's sense of smell. If dogs can smell these odorprints, it will help doctors learn what disease a patient has.

Scientists are looking at this same idea for COVID-19: our dog friends may give us a faster way to test for the disease instead of having to take a sample of mucous (snot) or saliva (spit) from inside a person's nose or throat.

Blaze, the black dog in the pictures, and seven other dogs are being trained to learn how to find COVID. During the experiment, the trainers keep track of what each dog does, the time of day, humidity (how much moisture or water is in the air), and temperature. All of this is important in learning how correct the pups’ sense of smell will be.

The dogs being trained are doing very well. They have made almost no mistakes, which means this could be a good way to explore COVID testing.

Something else that may be helpful in finding people who have COVID are “electronic noses.” Electronic noses are devices (or machines) that can take smells in the air and figure out what they are made of. Since they are machines, electronic noses do not need to be taken care of or fed like dogs do. They also don't need to rest, so they can be used at any time. Even though they the technology for electronic noses has been around for many years, it has gotten better over the years, which means tests would be more correct.

Review Questions:

1) What is a diagnostic test?

2) How could using a dog and odorprints to test for coronavirus be better than the way we already test?

3) In what ways are electronic noses easier to use than diagnostic dogs?

To learn more about diagnostic dogs, watch this video and read this article:

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