Dogs can be trained to sniff out malaria

October 30, 2018


TAMPA: Dogs can be trained to sniff out certain cancers, people at risk of a diabetic coma and now, children with malaria just by smelling their socks, researchers said on Monday.

According to the findings presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting in New Orleans, dogs were trained to sniff out malaria parasites in African children who tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease but did not have a fever or other outward symptoms.

Malaria kills some 445,000 people worldwide each year, and is caused by parasites that are transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Cases of malaria are on the rise, globally.

The World Health Organisation said there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, up five million over a year earlier.

“Worryingly, our progress on the control of malaria has stalled in recent years, so we desperately need innovative new tools to help in the fight against malaria,” said co-author James Logan, head of the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“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.”

A total of 175 sock samples were tested, including 30 malaria-positive children in The Gambia and 145 from uninfected children. Dogs were able to correctly identify 70 per cent of the malaria-infected samples. The canines were also able to identify 90 per cent of the samples without malaria parasites.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2018