How malaria infects dogs

Dogs sniff out malaria-infected people

DURHAM. Dogs with their sensitive noses can be trained to recognize malaria-infected people by their smell. This is what scientists from the University of Durham report.

The team led by Professor Steve Lindsay has now presented the results at the annual congress of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

For their study, the researchers had dogs sniffed on a total of 175 pairs of socks. The samples came from children between the ages of 5 and 14 from Gambia who had worn the socks overnight. 30 of the children were verifiably infected with the malaria pathogen Plasmodium falciparum.

The dogs' hit rate was astonishing: 70 percent of the samples from infected children were correctly identified by the animals, reports the university. The dogs also correctly recognized 90 percent of the healthy children.

Even better: recognize infected people by their body odor

To stop the spread of malaria, it is important to identify and treat infected people without symptoms of the disease before more people can become infected.

"One goal could be to use such dogs at airports, for example, similar to drug dogs," Lindsay is quoted in the university's announcement.

However, the sniffer dogs would have to be trained to recognize infected people not only by the smell of their socks, but also directly by their body odor.

Then, however, they represented a simple and quick option to identify infected people - without a blood test, laboratory or the necessary medical staff. (bae)