Max and Berla, the German shepherds capable of sniffing the virus –

Max and Berla, the German shepherds capable of sniffing the virus –
Max and Berla, the German shepherds capable of sniffing the virus –
from Stefania Chiale

Collaboration between the State University and the Carabinieri. In the future they could be useful in situations where there are crowds of people. The microbiologist: They have become more efficient than our own tools

They are called Max and Berla, there are two german shepherds two and a half years old, never used for other research activities, and today they are specialized in identifying people infected with Covid-19. The result is the result of an experiment that began in April this year and is still in progress betweenUniversity of Milan, the Carabinieri and the Sacco Hospital. The excellent results (i first in Europe) could, if the general command gave a favorable opinion on the commitment of the canine units in this area, offer one extraordinary tool in situations where there is an influx of large masses of people, such as concerts, demonstrations, airports or stadiums.


Last spring the University of Milan and the Arma dei Carabinieri signed a collaboration protocol for the use of dogs of the Carabinieri Dog Center in Florence in identifying subjects affected by Covid-19. The executive phase of the project was entrusted toMicrobiology unit, clinical virology and diagnostics of Bioemergencies, in the person of the director Maria Rita Gismondo, and al “Pastrengo” Interregional Carabinieri Command. This is the intermediate result of a collaboration between institutions – commented Professor Gismondo at the Provincial Carabinieri Command of Milan on Thursday -: I speak on behalf of both the University of Milan and the Sacco hospital which hosted the experiment. Both are delighted with the collaboration with the Carabinieri.

The experimentation

How did the experimentation take place from a scientific point of view? The Sacco hospital – explained Gismondo – has provided gauze soaked in sweat taken from Covid patients hospitalized in the Infectious Diseases ward, obviously ensuring a path of total safety for both operators and dogs. Then the operators trained the dogs to recognize the gauze of positive patients by distinguishing them from negative ones and then, admirably, dogs have become more efficient than our own tools: even before the swab of a patient was declared positive the dog had already identified him as a positive subject for Covid. In the future it is desirable to imagine not obviously a replacement for the tools we have, but an excellent help and support to public health wherever there are masses of people, commented Gismondo, underlining that the first time these results have been achieved in Europe.

The olfactory imprinting of dogs

From April 2021 to October 2021, 427 sweat samples were used, belonging to 127 patients, aged between 21 and 86 years, 54% female and 46% male. The dogs spotted the positives, regardless of gender and viral load, since their use is focused on the identification and memorization of the specific odor to be searched for. Then we moved on to the phase of dissociation of the other odors present in the sample. Once the olfactory imprinting phase of the two dogs was completed, we moved on to tests on positive individuals at Covid-19, everyone volunteers, at the Sacco tampons hub. Phase of the project particularly useful because it goes beyond the mere simulated training context to already highlight a real scenario. Dogs have 40-45 times more olfactory receptors than humans. The principle why the patient can alter his or her smell present in many diseases – explains Gismondo -: we were almost certain that it could also happen with Covid, but we had to experience that the dog could distinguish it. Now we know for sure that it can.

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December 2, 2021 (change December 2, 2021 | 16:02)


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