Did you know dogs can detect malaria in our breath?

Did you know dogs can detect malaria in our breath?

Did you know dogs can detect malaria in our breath?

Another avenue of research that needs to be explored is whether the smell is consistent across populations, so Lindsay plans to test people from all over Africa to see if the dogs can recognize malaria among their scents, too.

Trained "sniffer dogs" can successfully detect a distinctive odor emitted by malaria parasites on human clothing, according to research presented October 28 at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

The disease infected around 216 million people worldwide in 2016 and killed 445,000 of them.

A team led by James Logan, head of the Department of Disease Control at the London tropical medicine school, previously demonstrated that socks worn by infected children were more alluring to the little bloodsuckers, likely because the garments' odors contained more chemicals called aldehydes.

"Our results show that sniffer dogs could be a serious way of making diagnosis of people who don't show any symptoms, but are still infectious, quicker and easier".

The dogs correctly identified 70 per cent of malaria-infected samples and correctly identify 90 per cent of samples without malaria parasites. Meanwhile, the team trained the dogs to freeze is they identified malaria.

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Lead researcher Prof Steve Lindsay, from Durham University, said he was "really excited" by the findings so far, but that dogs were not yet ready to be used more routinely.

Sniffer dogs could potentially be deployed at ports of entry to identify passengers carrying malaria to prevent the spread of the disease across borders and to ensure people receive timely antimalarial treatment.

Their findings are being presented October 29 at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the very least, this latest research provides an important proof-of-principle showing that dogs might be useful for sniffing out malaria in some settings.

Since the initial study, a third dog, Freya, has also been trained to detect the disease, giving hope animals can eventually provide a non-invasive, speedy and portable test for identifying human carriers of the parasite, a boon in preventing infections in areas with low incidence of the disease.

Alternatively, health workers can use any number of "rapid diagnostic tests", which involve dropping a pinprick of blood on a small device. 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.

Earlier, independent studies have indicated that dogs may also be trained to detect certain cancers and diabetes.

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'This is a reliable, non-invasive test and is extremely exciting for the future'.

Dr Chelci Squires, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC: "Dogs are actually nature's super-smellers so it is a great gift to have them".

The idea is to eradicate the disease by using the trained dogs at airports to check the spread of the disease. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. This means journalists are losing the ability to hold the rich and powerful to account.

Malaria can be life-threatening, but it's also preventable and curable.

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