Dogs can sniff out malaria parasites on your clothes

Dogs could someday be a powerful tool in diagnosing malaria, a new study shows.The animals were train...

Posted: Oct 29, 2018 4:40 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2018 4:40 PM

Dogs could someday be a powerful tool in diagnosing malaria, a new study shows.

The animals were trained to identify whether someone was infected with malaria simply by sniffing their socks, according to the research, published Monday.

Animals

Diseases and disorders

Dogs

Health and medical

Infectious diseases

Life forms

Malaria

Mammals

Mosquito-borne diseases

Parasitic diseases

Continents and regions

Europe

Northern Europe

United Kingdom

Dogs have been trained to use smell to diagnose some forms of cancer and diabetes, and now, UK scientists have helped train two dogs to detect malaria parasites, aided by the British organization Medical Detection Dogs.

"People carrying malaria parasite already have a signature scent, and we know if dogs can smell drugs, food and other substances, they should be able to detect this smell on clothing, too," said Steve Lindsay, a public health entomologist at in the Department of Biosciences at Durham University and lead investigator on the study.

Lindsay's team trialed their idea in Gambia, where they collected socks given to 600 schoolchildren ages 5 to 13 who did or did not have malaria. The socks were used to train the dogs in the UK over four months.

"We took the socks that had captured the scent of the children overnight and flew them to the UK, where the dogs were trained to smell and differentiate samples that were infected or not," Lindsay said.

Of the samples, 175 were used to train the dogs: 30 from children infected with malaria and 145 from uninfected children.

By smelling the socks alone, the dogs -- Lexi, a Labrador-golden retriever, and Sally, a Lab -- were able to accurately detect 70% of infected children and 90% of uninfected children.

The study shows that dogs can be deployed as tools for malaria detection, as they have in the diagnosis of some forms of cancer, according to the researchers.

Dogs have millions of sensors in their noses that make them more sensitive to odors than humans are.

But more research is needed after this pilot study, and the authors warn that the method is still in the early trial stages. They would need to test the technique on samples from other countries before the animals can be used in the field, they said.

Further studies also need to be done, especially in African countries, to see whether dogs can "directly" sniff out malaria in infected people, the team said.

Detection rates could have been higher -- up to 78% -- if the children with malaria had the same type of malaria parasites, they added.

There were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria globally in 2016, including 445,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The disease can be treated, but there is no preventive vaccine.

The researchers believe their findings could be useful in detecting malaria in people showing no signs of fever, a common symptom, therefore preventing its spread, particularly in countries that have eliminated the disease. Identification would also help people get treated early with antimalarial drugs.

"It is useful in countries like South Africa, close to elimination, or Sri Lanka, that has eliminated malaria. How do you locate that one person in a million people carrying the parasite in a country that has recorded no infection without doing invasive tests?" Lindsay said.

The method may not be effective in endemic countries such as Nigeria, where malaria is actively transmitted, Lindsay said.

"The dogs are good in countries where they are going to zero infections or where they where they are malaria-free, and you have to prevent people from bringing malaria into the country ... through the airport or the ports."

Claire Guest, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, said she is excited by the results. It is first time the charity has trained dogs to detect a parasite infection, though its dogs have helped in canine cancer and diabetes detection. A dog named Freya has been trained to detect malaria since the initial study.

She said the results offer the potential that dogs serve as cost-effective tools in the diagnosis of tropical diseases, especially in areas where they are lacking.

"I believe that this study indicates that dogs have an excellent ability to detect malaria and if presented within an individual infected with the parasite or a piece of recently worn clothing, their accuracy levels will be extremely high. This is a reliable, non-invasive test and is extremely exciting for the future," Guest said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26980

Reported Deaths: 1159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin9099657
Ramsey3351149
Stearns205614
Nobles15775
Anoka152779
Dakota144664
Washington70035
Olmsted68911
Rice5243
Kandiyohi5141
Scott4712
Clay44930
Mower4462
Wright3492
Todd3441
Sherburne2492
Carver2402
Benton1853
Steele1700
Freeborn1590
Blue Earth1490
Martin1355
St. Louis11914
Lyon1012
Unassigned9611
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Cottonwood820
Winona8115
Crow Wing815
Watonwan790
Carlton750
Goodhue736
Otter Tail731
Chisago691
Polk632
Itasca5610
Dodge540
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur471
Douglas460
Meeker460
Becker440
Jackson420
Murray410
McLeod410
Isanti360
Pennington300
Waseca290
Mille Lacs241
Rock230
Faribault220
Wabasha200
Swift191
Beltrami180
Sibley170
Brown172
Fillmore171
Norman150
Pipestone130
Kanabec121
Aitkin120
Marshall120
Cass112
Big Stone110
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Redwood70
Yellow Medicine70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Red Lake40
Traverse40
Grant40
Clearwater30
Houston30
Hubbard30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Stevens10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21114

Reported Deaths: 593
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4614140
Woodbury286137
Black Hawk178849
Buena Vista10672
Linn97879
Dallas95226
Marshall91418
Wapello63615
Johnson6198
Muscatine56741
Crawford5512
Tama41129
Scott38510
Dubuque35921
Louisa35011
Pottawattamie31910
Sioux3060
Jasper26917
Wright2210
Washington1968
Warren1671
Plymouth1522
Story1311
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9913
Poweshiek928
Hamilton760
Webster741
Henry732
Boone720
Bremer716
Clarke690
Des Moines681
Taylor660
Clinton651
Guthrie553
Cedar501
Benton431
Cherokee410
Monroe415
Jones370
Shelby370
Osceola360
Jefferson360
Marion350
Dickinson350
Buchanan341
Iowa340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Madison292
Lee290
Sac280
Davis280
Emmet270
Fayette270
Clay270
Monona260
Harrison260
Hardin240
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Lucas222
Mills200
Grundy200
Franklin200
Humboldt201
Pocahontas200
Delaware191
Floyd191
Hancock180
Appanoose173
Butler161
Kossuth160
Carroll151
Ida150
Greene150
Keokuk140
Jackson140
Page140
Audubon131
Cass130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Winnebago110
Calhoun100
Union100
Van Buren90
Adair90
Montgomery92
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Unassigned20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 63°
Mason City
Broken Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Austin
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Scattered Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 68°
Weekend looks nice
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 6/5

Image

Gyms, fitness centers set to reopen

Image

Easing restrictions for MN restaurants and gyms

Image

Charles City vigil for George Floyd

Image

Hawkeye Harvest Foodbank partnership

Image

Next phase of Minnesota reopening

Image

Rental Assistance program for Rochester

Image

IA Care Homes Could Reopen to Visitors

Image

'Color Me Mine' Location Closes for Good

Image

Getting Your Fair Food Fix During the Pandemic

Community Events