From oatmeal cookies, rotting apples and burnt chocolate to bleach, gasoline and the smell of wet dog - all
infections have a distinct odor signature
In fact, animals are
a sniff test
for proper social distancing to avoid disease.
Is there a signature for COVID-19?
Researchers in several countries (e.g., US University of Pennsylvania
and Florida-based nonprofit, BioScent K9
, UK London School of Hygiene and Durham University
, Finnish University of Helsinki
and France Veterinary School
) started to train dogs to detect this disease.
Preliminary results show that dogs can not only sniff COVID-19 in samples but also sniff out virus in humans at airports and train stations.
Metabolites are also screened by mass-spectrometry instruments, breathalyzer and digital nose devices (like a prototype tested in Ohio State University
jellyfish-like instrument and Weizmann
smell tracker). Owlstone Breath Biopsy
goes a step further integrating analysis of volatile metabolites with viral particles or RNA in respiratory droplets.
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Chen H, Qi X, Ma J, Zhang C, Feng H, Yao M. Breath-borne VOC Biomarkers for COVID-19. medRxiv. 2020 Jan 1.
Shen B, Yi X, Sun Y, Bi X, Du J, Zhang C, Quan S, Zhang F, Sun R, Qian L, Ge W. Proteomic and metabolomic characterization of COVID-19 patient sera. Cell. 2020 Jan 1.
Blasco H, Bessy C, Plantier L, Lefevre A, Piver E, Bernard L, Marlet J, Stefic K, BENZ DE BRETAGNE I, Cannet P, LUMBU H. The specific metabolome profiling of patients infected by SARS-COV-2 supports the key role of tryptophan-nicotinamide pathway and cytosine metabolism.