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This study aimed to evaluate the sensitivity of 21 dogs belonging to different United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Interior (MOI), trained for COVID-19 olfactory detection. The study involved 17 explosives detection dogs, two cadaver detection dogs and two dogs with no previous detection training. Training lasted two weeks before starting the validation protocol. Sequential five and seven-cone line-ups were used with axillary sweat samples from symptomatic COVID-19 individuals (SARS-CoV-2 PCR positive) and from asymptomatic COVID-19 negative individuals (SARS-CoV-2 PCR negative). A total of 1368 trials were performed during validation, including 151 positive and 110 negative samples. Each line-up had one positive sample and at least one negative sample. The dog had to mark the positive sample, randomly positioned behind one of the cones. The dog, handler and data recorder were blinded to the positive sample location. The calculated overall sensitivities were between 71% and 79% for three dogs, between 83% and 87% for three other dogs, and equal to or higher than 90% for the remaining 15 dogs (more than two thirds of the 21 dogs). After calculating the overall sensitivity for each dog using all line-ups, matched sensitivities were calculated only including line-ups containing COVID-19 positive and negative samples strictly comparable on confounding factors such as diabetes, anosmia, asthma, fever, body pain, diarrhoea, sex, hospital, method of sweat collection and sampling duration. Most of the time, the sensitivities increased after matching. Pandemic conditions in the U.A.E., associated with the desire to use dogs as an efficient mass-pretesting tool has already led to the operational deployment of the study dogs. Future studies will focus on comparatives fields-test results including the impact of the main COVID-19 comorbidities and other respiratory tract infections.

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