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COVID-19 ISO Insights

Canine Connections to Coronaviruses

June 7, 2021

By Christopher Sirota, CPCU

Key Takeaway: Scientists have identified a likely non-contagious new coronavirus (CCoV-HuPn-2018) transmission from dogs to humans; they expect new transmissions from animals about every ten years and have developed a new test to help detect any type of coronavirus in humans, not just specifically known varieties. Also, trained dogs may be better than some rapid antigen tests at detecting infected people.

Zoonotic Update: Dogs

Where will you be in 2030? Hold on to your masks because some experts expect a recurrence of some form of animal to human (zoonotic) transmission of a new coronavirus about every ten years, according to an article in NPR. For example, previous jumps of coronaviruses reportedly include from civets in 2002 (SARS-COV) and camels in 2012 (MERS). There are reportedly seven currently known coronaviruses, but according to NPR there may be an eighth: researchers have discovered evidence, from a sample collected in 2018, of a new coronavirus, named CCoV-HuPn-2018. The sample was reportedly retrieved from several children with pneumonia in Malaysia and was recently confirmed to have originated from dogs; note, the researchers have not confirmed yet that CCoV-HuPn-2018 actually directly caused the pneumonia. The patients all reportedly recovered.

So far, CCoV-HuPn-2018 is not considered contagious, in other words, it has not jumped from human to human. Of interest, the novel virus has been associated with gastrointestinal problems in dogs but respiratory problems with humans.

NPR adds that, in order to better prevent future pandemics, the researchers encourage the study of humans that are in close contact with animals and suggest routinely testing humans with pneumonia in order to detect novel viruses sooner. To that end, the researchers have developed a coronavirus test that is not specific to one type, such as the one that causes COVID-19, according to a related article from the University of Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota article highlights further information from the results of the study (full study here), including the following:

  • CCoV-HuPn-2018 is actually found in both dogs and cats; it also shares some genomic traits with SAR-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
  • CCoV-HuPn-2018 has a mutation found previously in the human 2003 SARs-CoV, and not found in bats, the suspected source of that virus.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the spike protein has no mutations, therefore, researchers are concerned that certain strains of CCoV-HuPn-2018 may already have the ability to infect humans.

Canine Olfactory Sense to the Rescue?

What can over 300 million scent receptors do quite accurately? Apparently, they can detect COVID-19 in people. Where can we find so many receptors? Look no further than within the nose of our canine companion: according to the Wall Street Journal, trained dogs apparently can detect the various compounds humans excrete in sweat and saliva when reacting to COVID-19. The accuracy of canine detection is reportedly as high as 99 percent, whereas some rapid antigen tests may only detect with an average accuracy of 72 percent.

Per the article, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that dogs can screen up to 300 people per day in public places, such as airports.

The article notes the entities that are currently using trained dogs to screen for COVID-19 include the following:

  • United Arab Emirate (UAE) interior ministry
  • National Basketball Association (NBA)
  • Construction firms in Finland
  • Beirut Airport, Lebanon
  • Nascar

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