The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: A Facebook post published May 24, 2021 claims that dogs can detect COVID-19 and screen 300 travellers at airports in 30 minutes, according to a study from U.K.
- The British research is divided into 3 phases. The proof-of-principle study of the research on using dogs for detection of COVID-19 has been done. Still, the research hasn’t conducted any practical test yet to prove the viability of using dogs for detection of COVID-19 in an airport setting.
- The research indicates that two well-trained dogs could screen 300 people in 30 minutes. However, real tests are yet to be done to prove that two dogs can screen travellers at airports in 30 minutes.
- Our ruling: Therefore, we rate the claim as PARTIALLY TRUE.
A Facebook post published May 24, 2021 claims that dogs can detect COVID-19. The article quotes a study from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), saying that dogs can be used for detection of COVID-19 and that “two dogs in only 30 minutes could screen 300 travellers at the airports” despite the patients’ low viral loads or asymptomatic infections.
The article had been shared 54 times and had received 496 likes and 24 comments as of the issuance of this report.
HKBU FactCheck Service found 39 publications in relation to dogs on the official website of LSHTM.
One publication titled “Could bio-detection dogs be used to limit the spread of COVID-19 by travellers?” started in March this year. The research is divided into 3 phases, involving collection of body and breath odour samples from more than 300 asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases of COVID-19.
As stated in the research report, “Phase 1 is a proof-of-principle study to demonstrate that medical detection dogs can be trained to identify asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infections with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) with high sensitivity and specificity. Phase 2 is an assessment of the capability of the trained dogs to detect people with asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Phase 3 will deploy trained dogs at Britain’s ports of entry to screen travellers for SARS-CoV-2 infection.” According to the WHO, SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the virus that causes COVID-19.
HKBU FactCheck Service browsed the project “Using dogs to detect COVID-19” on LSHTM’s website and found the result report of phase 1. It demonstrates that after training, six dogs discriminated between odour samples from 200 infected participants and 200 uninfected participants.
Phase 3 research of deploying trained dogs at ports of entry such as airports haven’t started yet and there is still no result released.
Regarding the claim that the screening of 300 travellers at airports can be done in 30 minutes, the result report of phase 1 trial only states that “our preparatory work indicates that two dogs could screen 300 people in 30 mins.” It is not saying 300 travellers at the airports. The claim may imply that the research has been applied to practice and mislead the readers. In fact, there is no practical evidence for dogs’ capability to detect COVID-19.
Therefore, we rate the claim as PARTIALLY TRUE.
- Facebook post, May 24, 2021.
- London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “Could bio-detection dogs be used to limit the spread of COVID-19 by travellers?,” published in 2020.
- WHO, “Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it.”
- London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine project, Using dogs to detect COVID-19.
- London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “Using trained dogs and organic semi-conducting sensors to identify asymptomatic and mild SARS-CoV-2 infections,” published in 2021.