The COVID-19 crisis is being brought under control in more and more countries. Unfortunately, it is still a serious concern in a wide range of places in a wide range of countries. As such, there is enormous interest in coming up with better methods for COVID-19 detection, as shown by the efforts involving dogs. We sense the world through our own senses. As a result, it is natural for us to extrapolate that to other entities. Still, it is important to note that the senses of one human can have significant differences from the senses of another human. Never mind when there are other species involved. For instance, visible light is called visible light because that is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans can see, which is sandwiched between infrared radiation and ultraviolet radiation. However, there are species such as snakes and blood-sucking insects that can see infrared radiation. Similarly, there are species such as bees and butterflies that can see ultraviolet radiation.
Regardless, one of the best-known examples of such differences would be the dog’s exceptional sense of smell. Some dog breeds have better senses of smell than others, which should come as no surprise considering that some of them were bred for this precise purpose. However, there can be no doubt about the fact that dogs have much better senses of smell than humans, so much so that they can do things that seem almost magical to us.
To name an example, dogs can detect diseases using their sense of smell. This is possible because those diseases have caused changes to the human body that can be picked up by a canine nose even if they seem unnoticeable to us. Something that is extremely important because earlier detection tends to mean better outcomes for those who have the disease. In any case, there is evidence to suggest that dogs are capable of detecting COVID-19 even in people who haven’t started showing symptoms. If this turns out to be the case, our canine companions could start seeing widespread use for detecting COVID-19 in the times to come.
Why Is This So Important Anyways?
Currently, there is no perfect method for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Something that should come as no surprise considering that its infectiousness is one of its most terrifying characteristics. However, there are a number of methods that can be used to hinder COVID-19’s spread from person to person, which can be combined for greater effects than otherwise possible. Simply put, if one method fails, there is a chance that the next method will succeed. The higher the number of methods being used, the higher the chances that COVID-19 will be stopped by one of them. For example, people are supposed to wear masks because those reduce the chances of the pathogen making its way from one person to another. However, masks are imperfect. Fortunately, a huge number of people are being vaccinated at a steady rate, which is helpful because this provides a massive boost to the chances of COVID-19 either bouncing off of the vaccinated individual or producing a mild case in the vaccinated individual. Once again, none of the vaccines are perfect, but it should be clear that the combination of masks and vaccines is much more effective than either one being used on its own.
Naturally, COVID-19 detection plays an important role in preventing its spread from person to person. After all, if a case of COVID-19 can be detected sooner, the infected individual can quarantine themselves sooner, thus reducing the number of people who are exposed to them. If dogs can indeed detect COVID-19 before symptoms start showing up, this can mean a huge boost to COVID-19 prevention methods because that can mean earlier detection and thus earlier quarantine. Moreover, canine-based COVID-19 detection should be much faster than its well-established counterparts, which could mean remarkable benefits from both an efficacy and an efficiency perspective. As such, it is no wonder that there is so much interest in training dogs to do this.
Will COVID-19 Become Endemic?
Some people might wonder why COVID-19 detection is so important when COVID-19 seems to be on its way out. Yes, there are still countries struggling with the disease. However, the developed world seems to have either brought it under control or are in the process of bringing it under control, not least because of their vaccination efforts. As such, once these countries secure their own situation, they will start sending vaccines to their less well-off counterparts. Something that has already been going on for some time. If this trend continues, it seems reasonable to say that there could come a time when so many people are vaccinated that COVID-19 will no longer be able to spread with ease because of herd immunity.
Unfortunately, this is by no means guaranteed to be the case because there is still much that remains unknown about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine. For example, we don’t actually know if the immunity conferred by vaccines will last forever. If it lasts forever, there is a chance that COVID-19 can be eliminated with sufficient vaccination; if it does not last forever, that means that the passage of time can create vulnerabilities, which in turn, can enable a resurgence of COVID-19 from time to time. Similarly, COVID-19 has already seen multiple strains come into existence. Even if the current vaccines can confer immunity to all of the strains that exist at the moment, there is no guarantee that they can confer immunity to all of the strains that can come into existence.
Thanks to this, there is the potential for COVID-19 to elude immunity through evolution, which could restart the pandemic. On top of this, there are the standard issues with combating something as widespread as COVID-19 has become. The developed world might be able to do enough vaccinations to establish herd immunity. However, the developing world will have a harder time doing the same, particularly if they are undergoing war and other complications that make such tasks more difficult. For that matter, it is unclear whether COVID-19 can use animals as a reservoir. If it can, well, suffice to say that we will have to keep a watchful eye out for new outbreaks even if we manage to eliminate from the general population. Combined, these concerns mean that COVID-19 detection will remain a serious concern for the near future. In turn, this means that finding better methods of COVID-19 detection using dogs and other tools is a very worthwhile endeavor.