Colds and flu

30 August 2010

Bird Flu Detection Takes a Novel Turn

Mice trained to zero in on infected duck feces in USDA experiment


This article has not necessarily been edited by Health24.

THURSDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Bloodhounds, you've now got some unusual company: Trained mice were able to detect bird flu in ducks, according to novel research.

"Based on our results, we believe dogs, as well as mice, could be trained to identify a variety of diseases and health conditions," said Bruce A. Kimball, a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist who was to present his findings at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston this week.

Kimball and colleagues at the Monell Chemical Senses Center were able to train mice to detect infected duck feces in a maze more than 90 percent of the time when they had the option of heading toward uninfected feces. The mice were rewarded with water when they correctly identified the infected samples.

"We envision two broad, real-world applications of our findings," Kimball said in a news release from the ACS. "First, we anticipate use of trained disease-detector dogs to screen feces, soil or other environmental samples to provide us with an early warning about the emergence and spread of flu viruses. Second, we can identify the specific odor molecules that mice are sensing and develop laboratory instruments and in-the-field detectors to detect them."

Bird flu can kill birds, such as chickens, turkeys and ducks. In rare cases, bird flu has spread to humans, and there has been concern that transmission to people could spark worldwide epidemics.

More information

For more about bird flu, try the CDC.

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)


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Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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