Published: Tue, October 30, 2018
Medical | By

Dogs can be trained to detect malaria in people

Dogs can be trained to detect malaria in people

Dogs are known for their powerful sniffing abilities. But, canines' heightened senses aren't only valuable for these situations.

According to the last global report on the disease, cases had increased by five million to a new total of 216 million cases a year.

"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".

This research was recently presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's annual meeting in New Orleans.

Researchers gave nylon socks to a group of school-age children in the Upper River region of the Gambia in west Africa.

The dogs, which are kept at the Medical Detection Dogs charity in Milton Keynes, UK, were able to accurately categorize 70 percent of the malaria-infected samples and 90 percent of the non-infected samples.

Following this stage, the socks were frozen and sent to the United Kingdom, where two canines, including a Labrador-retriever cross mix and a Labrador, were trained for a period of time to detect if socks were worn by children with malaria or not.

Malaria is a disease with many identifiable symptoms, including sweating, vomiting and bloody stools.


Dogs could test a whole community in a short space of time. These parasites reached the sexual stage of their reproduction cycle, making it hard to determine if these socks had signs of malaria.

He said: "This could 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".

Using a study of 175 socks worn from children overnight, 30 were discovered to have been worn by children infected with the malaria parasite.

A new study has revealed that sniff dogs could be trained to detect malaria in people infected with the disease.

"But it appears that once the malaria parasite is in someone's body it causes quite a big change that the dogs are able to detect quite easily, so it's very exciting".

The goal, according to Lindsay, is to further testing in countries where there might be different types of malaria parasites.

"This could help prevent the spread of malaria to countries that have been declared malaria free and also ensure that people, many of whom might be unaware that they are infected with the malaria parasite, receive antimalarial drug treatment for the disease".

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