The Science of the Sniff

·      Author: Megan Molteni

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

Meet Freya, a Springer Spaniel, who has been trained to sniff out the scent of malaria. Freya’s highly sensitive nose could help provide the first non-invasive test for malaria. Sniffer dogs could potentially be deployed at ports of entry to identify passengers carrying malaria to prevent the spread of the disease across borders and to ensure people receive timely antimalarial treatment.

Medical Detection Dogs

In November 2016, a team of scientists from the Medical Research Council in Gambia visited primary schools armed with hundreds of beige-colored nylon socks. Handing them out to children there aged five to 14, the researchers instructed them to wear the socks overnight, only taking them off if they were washing their feet for prayer. The next day they returned to collect the dirty laundry, sort it, and put it in the mail to a British charity that would spend the next four months using the material to train dogs to recognize an odor imperceptible to the human nose: the molecular signature of malaria…