Dog Malaria

The Science of the Sniff: Why Dogs Are Great Disease Detectors

Dogs possess a sense of smell many times more sensitive than even the most advanced man-made instrument. Just how powerful is a pupper schnoz? Powerful enough to detect substances at concentrations of one part per trillion—a single drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools. With training, dogs can sniff out bombs and drugs, pursue suspects, and find dead bodies. And more and more, they’re being used experimentally to detect human disease—cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis, and now, malaria—from smell alone.

Key Takeaways:

  • One day biodetection dogs could be deployed at airports, ports of entry, or other border crossings, to prevent asymptomatic carriers of the parasite that causes malaria from transferring it.
  • Through a series of experiments, his research group showed that indeed, people infected with the parasite put out a unique aroma that attracted the mosquitos
  • Could be especially useful during the dry months, when there are few mosquitoes and very little transmission of the disease, but the parasite is holed up in human hosts who don’t show any symptoms.

“Dogs have something called neophilia, which means they are attracted to new and interesting odors”

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