Dogs sniff out malaria in people, study finds

Trained "sniffer dogs" can successfully detect a distinctive odor emitted by malaria parasites on human clothing, according to research presented Oct. 28 at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

For the study, researchers from U.K.-based Durham University used a total of 175 sock samples from several hundred school children living in West Africa, which included 30 socks from children who tested positive for malaria.

The dogs correctly identified 70 percent of the malaria-infected samples and 90 percent of the sock samples without malaria.

"While our findings are at an early stage, in principle we have shown that dogs can be trained to detect malaria-infected people by their odor with a credible degree of accuracy, " Steve Lindsay, PhD, a professor in the department of biosciences at Durham University said in a press release. "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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