Dogs can already sniff out drugs, diabetes, cancer and explosives, and new research suggests they could also be trained to sniff out diseases before they spread.
"Biosensor" dogs and mice could be dispatched to airports and other public spaces to sniff out avian influenza and other pathogens, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study. The key is the animals' keen ability to smell poo. Apparently, excrement from an infected animal smells different from that of a healthy animal. This is the first study to show excrement can be used as a marker for specific illnesses.
In the study, announced Tuesday, scientists trained mice to identify the feces of ducks that had been infected with bird flu. Researchers led by Bruce A. Kimball of the USDA placed mice in a maze and gave them a drink of water every time they sniffed a feces sample from a sick duck. Eventually, the mice became experts at identifying infected excrement.
The study was announced at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Kimball says the study proves the concept of using feces as a front-line defense against disease. Trained dogs, and possibly legions of mice, could screen feces, soil or other environmental samples to provide early warning, he says. He also expects to identify what the mice picked up in the smelly samples, and develop lab instruments and even field detectors based on those specific odor molecules.
The infected excrement was irradiated to protect the mice and the scientists from getting sick, and Kimball tells Discovery News that scientists need to make sure that process didn't affect the smell.
The study involved the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services and the National Wildlife Research Center, along with Monell Chemical Senses Center.
My dog can already warn me if my wife is about to pass out (from a very complex order of things best labeled as
"Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome"- which boils down to her autonomic nervous system sending random signals to open blood vessels, which results in blood going away from her brain, blood pressure drops, heart rate shoots up trying to compensate, she passes out.) Our dog can sometimes give us warning that this is going to happen. And even more importantly, she will run back and forth to get me if I'm not in the same room, and she'll lick my wife's face which seems to wake her up faster than anything else.
So I can totally believe in dogs telling us about disease. Coupled with the previous story about testing breath to determine particular cancer, I have to say I believe and support this.
MORE DOGS EVERYWHERE!!!