Malaria is one of the world’s biggest killers, responsible for 584,000 deaths each year.

Early results from our research show that dogs can accurately identify the odour of malaria opening up the potential to help fight the disease.

Presenting the results of the world’s first study into dog’s ability to detect the odour of malaria at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, Medical Detection Dogs Chief Executive Dr Claire Guest said, “this is the first time we have trained dogs to detect a parasite infection and we have had very positive results.”

Our dogs, Labrador-Golden Retriever cross, Lexi and Labrador, Sally were able to correctly identify 70 per cent of the malaria-infected samples and 90 per cent of the samples without malaria parasites. Dr Guest said, “If this is what the dogs can do on a small piece of sock I believe that detection levels could well exceed these results”.

Malaria is both preventable and curable and our research is aimed at harnessing the amazing power of a dog’s nose to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. Dr Guest said “the challenge is to find a fast, non-invasive way of screening large numbers of people for malaria to prevent its spread in to disease free areas. Our work has the potential to make this challenge a reality.”

The dogs were trained to distinguish between the scent of children infected with malaria parasites and those who were uninfected by sniffing socks worn for 24 hours by children in The Gambia which were then vacuum packed and sent to the UK. You can learn more about the project from Dr Guest and her co-author Professor Steve Lindsay from Durham University, the Principal Investigator on the project and Professor James Logan from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in this short video:

You can find more details of our malaria research here

The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was a collaboration between Medical Detection Dogs, Durham University, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Dundee (in the UK), the Medical Research Council Gambia Unit and the National Malaria Control Programme, in The Gambia.

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