Mice Can Detect Avian Flu. Can Dogs?


At a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society a paper was presented showing that  trained mice were exceptional at detecting the bird flu among ducks and with an amazing success rate!  There are three aspects of the story that fascinate me.

  • Trained mice are more accurate  than any instruments yet developed to detect this flu
  • Species-jumping diseases are occurring more frequently than in the past
  • Dogs may well be the next species trained for this job

According to the report presented by Bruce Kimball with the Department of Agriculture detecting diseases in animal populations is important to the human population as well and trained mice are the best bio-sensors available with an accuracy  rate of about 77%.  Researchers are not exactly sure how the mice are doing it but they suspect that rather than actually detecting the bird flu, they are detecting instead the response of an immune system to the presence of the avian flu. Mr. Kimball went on to suggest that at some point dogs could be trained for this job adding yet another disease that dogs can be trained to detect. This is a fast-growing list and includes several types of cancer, tuberculosis and diabetes.

Dirty Jobs is missing the boat if they don’t do a show about this.  In order to train and then test mice to detect the  bird flu, some poor soul must collect the diseased duck doo for testing!

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