Sniffer dogs could detect malaria in people

Sniffer dogs could detect malaria in people

Just like dogs used by security agencies, dogs have been trained to identify people infected with malaria using aroma of clothes from the infected.

Recent research shows that dogs may be able to sniff out malaria through their acute sense of smell, thereby saving thousands of lives through quick and non-invasive detection, according to a news report. The number barely budged from the year before, when 446,000 people succumbed to the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which spreads through infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

The World Health Organisation says that since 2000, six countries have been certified as malaria free, with another 12 reporting that no malaria cases have originated within their borders.

Despite progress, according to the World Health Organization, there were about 216 million malaria incidents in 2016, five million more than in 2015, with deaths reaching 445,000.

The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was a collaboration between Medical Detection Dogs, Durham University, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Dundee (in the UK), the Medical Research Council Gambia Unit and the National Malaria Control Programme, in The Gambia.

A total of 175 sock samples were tested including those of all 30 malaria-positive children identified by the study and 145 from uninfected children.

Dogs have been shown to indicate correctly seven out of 10 samples from infected children. Meanwhile, the team trained the dogs to freeze is they identified malaria.

"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".

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In addition, Lindsay believes training dogs to detect specific scents associated with malaria also could inform work underway to develop artificial "electronic noses" or "e-noses" that can diagnose diseases based on smell. The majority of people with malaria at any time are perfectly healthy walking parasite factories, and without knowing they are infected, these healthy carriers can easily spread the disease to new regions and new people who might not be so fortunate. Researchers presented their preliminary findings today at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting.

Dogs, equipped with their hyper-sensitive snoot, can detect the presence of the molecular signature of malaria.

Freya, a Springer Spaniel, is one of the dogs who has been trained to sniff out the scent of malaria, said researchers from Durham University in the UK.

With this new evidence, there is a possibility of dogs helping to stop the spread of malaria and eradicating it in the future.

Confirmation of the disease would then be made by taking a finger-prick blood sample. The socks were then shipped to the United Kingdom where they were stored in a freezer at LSHTM for several months while the dogs were trained.

The researchers plan to improve the skills of the animals, teaching them to find the parasites causing the disease in the early stages.

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Dogs can help professionals to identify malaria.

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