Dogs can detect malaria by sniffing socks of infected people

Police Sniffer-dogs

Police Sniffer-dogs

The team noted that socks were only used from malaria-infected children if the they did not express symptoms of the disease. There were about 445,000 malaria deaths in 2016, according to the World Health Organization. Only socks from children who were uninfected or those whose blood was shown to contain malaria parasites were chosen for the trial. The next day, the socks were collected.

When it comes to malaria, Lindsay said he does not envision squadrons of canines patrolling villages in sub-Saharan Africa. Only socks from children with malaria who did not have fever were selected, as were the socks from the children who were uninfected.

Dr. Guest said, "If this is what the dogs can do on a small piece of sock, I believe that detection levels could well exceed these results".

Scientists have found that dogs can be trained to sniff out the malaria parasite in lab-based experiments.

The dogs were able to correctly identify 70 per cent of the malaria-infected samples.

The researchers don't know exactly how the dogs detect malaria, but Lindsay said it's probably due to organic compounds, called aldehydes, that most people emit through their skin. However, in the future this work needs to be expanded with more samples tested from different parts of Africa. "And it may be possible to pick someone out from a crowd that's infected with malaria parasites". And Lindsay thinks that when it reaches a certain stage of maturity, the odor it generates on human skin changes.

Freya was trained by a non-profit group called Medical Detection Dogs.

Hounds could be trained to hunt out malaria in people after trials showed the animals were able to smell the deadly disease in samples of socks worn by infected children.

However, Lindsay and his colleagues said their work was only created to be a "proof of concept study" to show that malaria diagnosis by dogs is possible. "So that allows them to have a higher accuracy".

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Those carrying the malaria parasite, particularly people who are not showing any symptoms, could enter the country undetected.

With their keen sense of smell, dogs can track down bombs and drugs, but new research suggests they can also sniff out malaria in people.

It is hoped that by detecting if people are suffering from malaria earlier, sufferers could be cured by treatments, or isolated so that other people cannot be infected.

"The opportunity to use trained dogs for this goal is promising".

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since 2000 six countries have been certified malaria free, with another 12 countries reporting that no malaria cases have originated within their borders.

That doesn't mean that dogs wouldn't be effective at detecting a malaria infection.

"This could provide a noninvasive way of screening for the disease at ports of entry in a similar way to how sniffer dogs are routinely used to detect fruit and vegetables or drugs at airports", Lindsay explained in a university news release.

James Logan of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: "Our progress on the control of malaria has stalled in recent years".

Scientists in the United Kingdom have been developing a new method of malaria diagnosis that's so easy it requires little more than a Springer spaniel and a pair of well-used socks.

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