Using Canines for Malaria Detection
By admin November 8, 2018

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Dogs’ extremely sensitive sense of smell allows them to detect bombs, drugs, and other contraband that passes through airports in luggage or pockets but is it possible for them to sniff out malaria and could it be useful?

At the annual meeting at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) last month, researchers presented a small pilot study that has shown that dogs can accurately identify socks worn overnight by children infected with malaria parasites even in the mildest of cases.

The power of canine noses is not surprising. Dogs have been able to detect various types of cancers in blood and breath samples and are dogs now used to warn owners with diabetes when their blood sugar drops to dangerous lows or when owners with epilepsy are on the verge of a seizure.

While dogs have proven effective in diagnosing malaria in patients this does not mean they will replace laboratories as inexpensive rapid tests for malaria have been available for decades. However, even with rapid testing millions of people are continuously infected by malaria each year. Even if a country has effectively eliminated malaria but shares a border with others that have not they are vulnerable to an epidemic. When a region that is close to eliminating malaria, dogs can become useful in sweeping through villages and identifying silent carriers- those who are not ill but have parasites in their blood that mosquitoes can easily pass on to others.

A dog’s nose is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s and it is known to detect malaria parasites because of the volatile aldehydes they produce, which are also found in perfumes. Malaria parasites have evolved to emit odoriferous chemicals to attract mosquitoes to help them carry on to new hosts. Unfortunately, it is more like a tune of many notes that dogs can pick up, rather than a single chemical. Most dog breeds have noses fit for the task, however hunting dogs, such as pointers and spaniels, have proven to be best.

The study itself was conducted in Gambia, where several hundred school children were recruited to join the trial. Researchers stated that the accuracy of the dogs was impressive and they were identifying malaria infected children with lower levels of parasites than required to meet clinical standards for rapid diagnostic tests set by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, in the future this work needs to be expanded with more samples tested from different parts of Africa. With this innovative approach, researchers suggest tools to tackle malaria can come in all different shapes and sizes, and a snout has proven itself to be the most surprising contender.

For Further Reading:

New study reports dogs successfully diagnosed malaria by sniffing socks worn by African children

Dogs with super-sniffers could detect malaria in people, researchers say






Thanks for sharing !

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