The nose knows: Animals making sense of scents for disease detection
Body odour gets a pretty bad reputation, but what if we could diagnose some of the world's deadliest diseases by the smells our bodies give off? The problem is, we can’t smell it because our inferior noses are not good enough. Animals, on the other hand, have an incredible sense of smell which is far superior to our own. In a fascinating talk, Professor James Logan shows how we can harness the awesome powers of animal noses to detect chemical signatures associated with infection – and change the way we diagnose disease.
Professor Logan will describe how infection with malaria causes changes in human odour which are detected by mosquitoes and sniffer dogs. He will also explore a recent study to identify odours associated with COVID-19. The level of accuracy of dogs to detect malaria and COVID-19 is extremely impressive. The incredible detection powers of mosquitoes and dogs super-sniffers have resulted in the identification of novel odour biomarkers and diagnostics for these diseases.
Professor Logan and his team are now also developing novel technologies to detect key “odour signatures” in humans when they are infected, based on the chemicals detected by animals. The chances are we could do this for many other diseases, including other respiratory diseases and even cancer. Imagine being able to capture the power of animal olfaction in a wristband or smartwatch which would tell you as soon as you are infected, by detecting volatile chemicals given off in your sweat. By using mobile phone technologies, coupled with exciting artificial intelligence and algorithms, a world-changing, real-time disease surveillance system could be a reality.
Professor James Logan, LSHTM
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