Friday Fave: Why dogs are great disease detectors


Whoopi contributes to Friday Faves from time to time – this week we’re featuring one of her stories: Meet Freya, a Springer Spaniel. Freya’s pretty special, she’s been trained to sniff out people with malaria. And she and her colleagues have been 70% correct! That’s pretty impressive, when all she did was identify a pair of smelly socks!

In the UK there’s a team working with dogs like Freya and training to identify malaria. It’s pretty straightforward; as a dog, we have an amazing sense of smell. We’re attracted to new and interesting odours – it’s called neophilia. Just tell us which smell you want us to find, and leave the rest to us!

Of course using us to sniff out all sorts of things from bombs to drugs, to cancers isn’t new. But with the malaria detection, they’re hoping we could help at airports to identify people with the disease without blood tests and enable early intervention.

They reckon they’re going to be able to train robots (or bio-electronic noses) to do our work – but you know what… I’m sure most people would rather have a wet nose belonging to one of the canine team than some robot nose smelling their socks!

It’s me, Whoopi! Photo: Anne Bartlett-Bragg