Dogs can sniff malaria – from your socks
- Sniffer dogs were able to detect whether a child had malaria in seven out of ten cases, according to current research.
- There were about 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, with 445,000 malaria deaths. About 90% of these incidents and deaths were on the African continent.
- Sniffer dogs could offer a non-invasive, rapid test to identify those infected with the malaria parasite, the researchers say – but more research is needed.
“While our findings are at an early stage, in principle we have shown that dogs could be trained to detect malaria infected people by their odour with a credible degree of accuracy,” said principal investigator Steve Lindsay, a bioscientist at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom.
“This would provide a non-invasive 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.”
However, researchers cautioned that more research was needed before dogs could be used routinely at ports, to determine if they could sniff out malaria directly (rather than via socks) and if they could sniff it out in people from different parts of the world.
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