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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, Claire; Dewhirst, Sarah Y; Lindsay, Steve W; Allen, David J; Aziz, Sophie; Baerenbold, Oliver; Bradley, John; Chabildas, Unnati; Chen-Hussey, Vanessa; Clifford, Samuel; Cottis, Luke; Dennehy, Jessica; Foley, Erin; Gezan, Salvador A; Gibson, Tim; Greaves, Courtenay K; Kleinschmidt, Immo; Lambert, Sébastien; Last, Anna; Morant, Steve; Parker, Josephine EA; Pickett, John; Quilty, Billy J; Rooney, Ann; Shah, Manil; Somerville, Mark; Squires, Chelci; Walker, Martin; Logan, James G; Jones, Robert; Assis, Ana; Borthwick, Ewan; Caton, Laura; Edwards, Rachel; Heal, Janette; Hill, David; Jahan, Nazifa; Johnson, Cecelia; Kaye, Angela; Kirkpatrick, Emily; Kisha, Sarah; Ledeatte Williams, Zaena; Moar, Robert; Owonibi, Tolulope; Purcell, Benjamin; Rixson, Christopher; Spencer, Freya; Stefanidis, Anastasios; Stewart, Sophie; Tytheridge, Scott; Wakley, Sian; Wildman, Shanice; Aziz, Catherine; Care, Helen; Curtis, Emily; Dowse, Claire; Makepeace, Alan; Oultram, Sally-Anne; Smith, Jayde; Shenton,...

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Claire Guest

Sarah Y Dewhirst

David J Allen

Sophie Aziz

Oliver Baerenbold

John Bradley

Unnati Chabildas

Vanessa Chen-Hussey

Samuel Clifford

Luke Cottis

Jessica Dennehy

Erin Foley

Salvador A Gezan

Tim Gibson

Courtenay K Greaves

Immo Kleinschmidt

Sébastien Lambert

Anna Last

Steve Morant

Josephine EA Parker

John Pickett

Billy J Quilty

Ann Rooney

Manil Shah

Mark Somerville

Chelci Squires

Martin Walker

James G Logan

Robert Jones

Ana Assis

Ewan Borthwick

Laura Caton

Rachel Edwards

Janette Heal

David Hill

Nazifa Jahan

Cecelia Johnson

Angela Kaye

Emily Kirkpatrick

Sarah Kisha

Zaena Ledeatte Williams

Robert Moar

Tolulope Owonibi

Benjamin Purcell

Christopher Rixson

Freya Spencer

Anastasios Stefanidis

Sophie Stewart

Scott Tytheridge

Sian Wakley

Shanice Wildman

Catherine Aziz

Helen Care

Emily Curtis

Claire Dowse

Alan Makepeace

Sally-Anne Oultram

Jayde Smith

Fiona Shenton

Harry Hutchins

Robert Mart

Jo-anne Cartwright

Miranda Forsey

Kerry Goodsell

Lauren Kittridge

Anne Nicholson

Angelo Ramos

Joanne Ritches

Niranjan Setty

Mark Vertue

Malin Bergstrom

Zain Chaudhary

Angus De Wilton

Kate Gaskell

Catherine Houlihan

Imogen Jones

Marios Margaritis

Patricia Miralhes

Leah Owens

Tommy Rampling

Hannah Rickman

Marta Boffito

Candida Fernandez

Bryony Cotterell

Anne-Marie Guerdette

George Tsaknis

Margaret Turns

Joanne Walsh

Lisa Frankland

Raha West

Maureen Holland

Natalie Keenan

Helen Wassall

Megan Young

Jade Rangeley

Gwendolyn Saalmink

Sanjay Adlakha

Philip Buckley

Lynne Allsop

Susan Smith

Donna Sowter

Alison Campbell

Julie Jones

Steve Laird

Sarah O’Toole

Courteney Ryan

Jessica Evans

James Rand

Natasha Schumacher

Tracey Hazelton

Andrew Dodgson

Susannah Glasgow

Denise Kadiu

Orianne Lopuszansky

Anu Oommen

Joshi Prabhu

Molly Pursell

Jane Turner

Hollie Walton

Robert Andrews

Irena Cruickshank

Catherine Thompson

Tania Wainwright

Alun Roebuck

Tara Lawrence

Kimberley Netherton

Claire Hewitt

Sarah Shephardson

Winston Andrew Crasto

Judith Lake

Rosemary Musanhu

Rebecca Walker

Karen Burns

Andrew Higham

Julie Le Bas

Nicola Mackenzie

Hilary Thatcher

Shannen Beadle

Sarah Buckley

Gail Castle

Aimee Fletcher

Sara Holbrook

Patricia Kane

Kate Lindley

Tracey Lowry

Stephanie Lupton

Sharon Oddy

Lynda Slater

Martin Sylvester

Kenneth Agwuh

Veronica Maxwell

Stephen Ryder

Kirsty Topham

Obi Egbuniwe

Rebecca Matthews

Alejandro Arenas-Pinto

Paulina Prymas

Abigail Severn

Amber Shaw

Safia Begum

Daniel Lenton

James Scriven

Lucy Leeman

Karen Rudge

Emma Storr

Ana Alvarez

Kate Forster

Daniel Hind

Natalie Cook

Rosanna Peeling

Peter Carey

Anne Wilson

Jane Davis


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.


Guest, C., Dewhirst, S. Y., Lindsay, S. W., Allen, D. J., Aziz, S., Baerenbold, O., …Davis, J. (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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 5, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 24, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jun 28, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 28, 2022
Journal Journal of Travel Medicine
Print ISSN 1195-1982
Electronic ISSN 1708-8305
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 3
Article Number taac043


Published Journal Article (934 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Society of Travel Medicine.<br /> This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (

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