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Científicos aseguran que el olfato de los perros podría detectar la malaria

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Partiendo de que los síntomas del paludismo suelen aparecer de 10 a 15 días después de la picadura del mosquito, un grupo de científicos británicos y gambianos realizó un estudio en el que demostraron que los perros son capaces de diagnosticar la malaria.

Apoyados en la organización Medical Detection Dogs, los investigadores desarrollaron algunas pruebas. Los resultados se conocieron la pasada semana en Nueva Orleans, durante la convención anual de la Sociedad Americana de Medicina Tropical e Higiene.

Según indicaron, los perros tienen narices que son 10 mil a 100 mil veces más sensibles que las humanas; y por ello son capaces de detectar a los portadores del parásito de la malaria.

“El exquisito olfato canino es tan potente, que puede detectar personas que ya llevan el parásito en la sangre; aún y cuando no hayan desarrollado los síntomas”, explicaron.

Steven Lindsay, investigador principal del estudio, señaló a través de un comunicado que “las personas con parásitos de la malaria generan distintos olores en su piel. Nuestro estudio encontró que los perros tienen un sentido del olfato increíblemente sensible y pueden entrenar para detectar estos olores; incluso cuando se trata de un artículo de ropa que usa una persona infectada”.

La importancia de este nuevo hallazgo, en el que aseguran que los perros son capaces de diagnosticar la malaria, radica en que representan un método de detección efectivo, económico y rápido.

¿En qué consistió el estudio?

El experimento se realizó en una aldea de Gambia, un país sobre la costa occidental de África, con alta endemicidad. Cientos de niños en edad escolar, fueron reclutados por los científicos del London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine y la Unidad del Consejo de Investigación Médica de Gambia.

A todos les tomaron muestras de sangre para examinar si tenían malaria, les pidieron dormir con un par de medias. Al día siguiente los investigadores recogieron las medias e hicieron una selección. Separaron las de los niños que habían resultado positivos, pero no presentaban síntomas y las de los niños sin malaria.

Posteriormente, enviaron los dos grupos de medias al Reino Unido, donde se almacenaron en un congelador por varios meses; mientras miembros de la organización Medical Detection Dogs entrenaban a los perros: dos labradores golden retriever, elegidos para el experimento.

El resultado final fue sorprendente. Los perros identificaron correctamente el 70 % de los niños infectados y el 90 % de los niños no infectados.

 

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