Detection Dogs Can Now Sniff Out Malaria from Your Socks

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It’s no secret that dogs have a complex and incredibly powerful sense of smell. To compare, pooches have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, roughly 50 times more than humans. Trained canines can sniff out our bombs, drugs, leaky pipes, or even a stray smuggled pig head. There have been numerous studies revealing that the powerful snouts of out dogs can even smell our feelings, or detect illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. Now, a team of scientists revealed that dogs can sniff out malaria parasites in clothes, and with a great accuracy, as well.

The study was conducted by British researchers from Durham University, aided by a UK organization called Medical Detection Dogs. The idea was to see if dogs can successfully detect malaria in people by sniffing their clothing. People infected by malaria parasite have a “signature” scent, and the team hoped that the powerful noses of canines will be able to pick up on it. They collected socks given to 600 Gambian schoolchildren ages 5 to 13 who had or didn’t have malaria. Then, they’ve sent the socks from Africa to the United Kingdom, where medical detection canines were trained to recognize the malaria scent markers.

According to the study results, Lexi, a Golden Retriever, Freya, an English Springer Spaniel, and Sally, a Lab, were more than successful in their malaria-sniffing task. In 70 percent of the cases, the dogs were able to accurately detect which socks belonged to children infected by malaria. Similarly, the rate of detecting healthy, non-infected children was as high as 90 percent.

The promising results definitely warrant a larger-scale study. The possibility of having working dogs that can detect malaria by sniffing you or your clothes instead of having to undergo invasive medical tests is definitely tempting, especially in African countries. It seems that, once again, dogs save the day!