Dogs with super-sniffers could detect malaria in people, researchers say

Much like working dogs who detect blood sugar levels for people with diabetes or those sniffing for fruits, vegetables, drugs or explosive devices, researchers believe canines can use their noses to determine if a person has malaria.

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Although in its early stages, research has shown that dogs can be trained to detect if a person carries malaria after sniffing an infected person's sock, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that was released Monday at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting.

Researchers gave hundreds of children from West Africa who were and were not infected with malaria socks for dogs to later sniff and identify which carried the disease.

The test included 175 socks, of which 30 were malaria-infected.

Lexi, a Labrador-golden retriever mix, and Sally, a Labrador, correctly identified the malaria infected socks 70 percent of the time. The dogs were able to determine 90 percent of the time the samples without malaria.

"We put these socks on African children for 12 hours, take them off, freeze them for 15 months before we start training, and then the dogs can pick up that odor," Durham University professor and lead researcher Steve Lindsay told The Washington Post.

Six countries are certified malaria-free and 12 more have reported no cases of malaria originated within their country since 2000, according to a World Health Organization report.

However, there were more than 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries in 2016 including, 445,000 deaths, according to a World Health Organization report.

Researchers believe the results could lead to using dogs at ports and airports to help detect the spread of malaria into countries that have eradicated the disease.

"It is useful in countries like South Africa, close to elimination, or Sri Lanka, that has eliminated malaria," Lindsay told CNN. "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?"

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