Animals don’t only make for great themes for casino games... When it comes to sniffing out dread diseases, canines and a few other wild critters are trained diagnosticians too! This is mostly due to advanced olfactory powers and classic conditioning, as opposed to MBChB degrees.
Dogs – Hunters, Diagnostic Detecting Tools & Icons in Casino Games
Now, we all know dogs have a refined sense of smell. As humans, we have harnessed that trait to great effect. Dogs are not only lovable companions – they are skilled hunters and dynamite detectors of contraband like drugs, weapons and explosives.
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Canine Physiology is Tailor-Made for Disease Detection
In more recent times, dogs have been trained to sniff out breast and lung cancer with an accuracy rate of as much as 99%. How do they do that? It has got to do with their physiological makeup.
Unlike humans, who only have around 5 million olfactory receptors, dogs have five times that amount. All are seized with just one task – detecting the slightest shift in human odour caused by chemical reactions or changes in hormone secretion.
How Powerful is a Dog’s Sense of Smell?
When quoted in terms of concentrations, a dog can detect one drop of material in about 50 million litres of water – that is the equivalent capacity of 20 Olympic swimming pools. In truth, it is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack… or the highest payline win in the entire Springbok Casino games suite!
Canines Capable of Multiple Scent-Based Diagnoses
It is not only cancers that are proving to be accurately detectable by our furry friends. Dogs can sniff out malaria in children with a 70% success rate, using their socks or underwear as clues. They can also detect episodes of high and low blood sugar levels in diabetics.
What is more, well-trained canine clinicians can prewarn patients of impending seizures, epileptic fits and migraines – and even identify Parkinson’s disease years before the onset of symptoms. Now that is a great reason to give Fido a treat!
Intelligent and Easy to Train
What makes dogs such useful partners in exposing disease are their intelligence. They are remarkably easy to train and have the capacity to remember and respond to more than 72 different odours. That is a heap of doggie data swirling around in the brain.
For all we know, dogs might even be smart enough to play online casino games… but lack the anatomy and dexterity to hit the right buttons!
Ferreting Out Human Health Problems
Another canny creature at disease detection is the ferret. It too has a strong sense of smell and has been domesticated for thousands of years. Today, the furry weasel-like creature is a favourite pet in dozens of countries located around the world.
The ferret’s area of expertise is detecting avian or bird flu – a viral infection that causes coughs, fevers, muscle aches and shortness of breath. Avian flu has a comparatively high mortality rate in humans. Yet when diagnosed in time, it is easily treated with antiviral drugs.
Finding Viral Infections at the Source
Rather than identifying the flu in humans, ferrets are trained to track the infection at the source – in domestic and wild fowl populations – and use birds’ poop as sniff samples!
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Pigeons Use Images to Detect Breast Cancer
Pigeon physicians? No Way! Yet that is precisely what a researcher in the UK has achieved. By using a touchscreen computer and food pellets as an incentive, pigeons have been trained to detect breast cancer… and with remarkable accuracy too.
How did the training work? Individual birds were shown random images of breast tissue with either malignant or benign cancer cells. Every time the pigeon was presented with an image of cancerous cells, the computer rewarded it with food.
The Best Pathologist by Far is… a Flock
After a month of training, individual pigeons’ accuracy rate was 80% – a rate that leapt to 99% when the results of all the pigeons were tabulated together and analysed. That proves a flock of pigeons is a far better pathologist!
Honeybees Take the Hippocratic Oath
It takes one month to train pigeons to be avian oncologists – but only 10 minutes to transform honeybees into general physicians. Say what? Yes, indeed – a bee’s sense of smell is really, really good. In fact, it is so good, it is capable of locating sources of nectar literally tens of kilometres away.
Now, bees’ acute sense of smell has been harnessed to identify a slew of human diseases – tuberculosis, lung, skin and pancreatic cancer and most recently, COVID-19. Here is how it works.
Bees Detect Disease Markers in the Breath
Several bees are popped into a glass container consisting of an outer and inner chamber. A patient with possible symptoms of TB or cancer exhales air into the container. When the bees detect an odour associated with the disease, they fly into the inner chamber. How is that for instant diagnosis on the wing?
How to Train a Bee
How can anyone train bees? By rewarding them with a sugary substance, of course. When infected samples are presented to bees in a controlled environment, they are given sugar. Non-infected samples carry no such reward.
An Auto-Response from the Proboscis
After only a couple of minutes the bees cotton on to the fact that a particular smell is associated with the reward. As a result, they automatically stick out their long tongues in anticipation of the sugar when presented with a marker of the disease! Now that is what you call a quick turnaround time.
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Rats are More Effective at Tracing TB Than Labs
On the African continent, African Giant Pouched Rats are highly effective at detecting TB from – wait for it – spit samples. In fact, their detection rate of 70% eclipses that of lab tests by as much as 10%. What is more, it takes a trained African Giant Pouched Rat less than 15 minutes to ‘analyse’ 25 samples – and that is quick.
What is really remarkable is, in countries like Tanzania, the efficacy of TB detecting rats means they are preferred over the use of machines. How is that for super-sleuthing disease detecting powers… and by a rodent, nogal?
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