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.
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"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% 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.
-- Randy Dotinga
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