Lexi, Freya and Sally: the dogs that detect malaria just by smelling socks


The reason for the find

Steven Lindsay, principal investigator of the project, explained, «People with malaria parasites generate characteristic odors in their skin and our study has revealed that dogs, thanks to their incredibly sensitive sense of smell, can be trained to detect those odors even when there is only one piece of clothing worn by the infected person.



The project

The researchers moved to The Gambia, a country where malaria is a major cause of death. Two hundred school-age children living in the Upper River region joined the project. They all slept for one night in a pair of socks given to them by the scientists. The following morning, the garments were frozen and sent to the United Kingdom.  It was here that Lexi, Freya and Sally took care of sniffing the socks. According to the orders they had received, the animals had to stay still if they detected the presence of the parasite in a garment and they had to get away from it if it was clean.


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