After dogs… now it seems like ANTS can sniff out cancer

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Ants could be used to sniff out cancer because they can smell disease like dogs, study suggests

  • Formica fusca black ants have ‘high potential’ to be used in cancer detection
  • Most people rely on an MRI, mammogram or blood tests to pick up cancer cells
  • Healthy and cancerous cells emit different ‘smells’ ants can distinguish between

Although small in size, ants could soon play a big role in protecting our health.

The insects may one day be used to detect cancer, according to a study.

Scientists have discovered ants, like dogs, can ‘sniff’ out the disease. 

In various experiments dogs have detected different types – for example, finding breast and lung cancer by sniffing patients’ breath.

But a study has now found ants have a ‘high potential’ to be used as a form of detection.

Researchers discovered that after just a few minutes of training, formica fusca black ants were able to differentiate healthy human cells from cancerous ones in a petri dish. [File image]

Researchers discovered that after just a few minutes of training, formica fusca black ants were able to differentiate healthy human cells from cancerous ones in a petri dish. [File image]

Most people rely on an MRI, mammogram or blood tests, which can be expensive and invasive, to pick up cancerous cells. [File image]

Most people rely on an MRI, mammogram or blood tests, which can be expensive and invasive, to pick up cancerous cells. [File image]

Therapy dogs in A&E

Spending just ten minutes with a therapy dog could reduce pain, depression and anxiety in A&E patients.

Patting a dog may release the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin, sparking positive emotions and making pain more bearable, according to researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Their study appeared in the journal PLOS One.

Researchers discovered that after just a few minutes of training, formica fusca black ants were able to differentiate healthy human cells from cancerous ones in a petri dish.

This, they believe, is because healthy and cancerous cells emit different compounds that ants can distinguish by smell.

Most people rely on an MRI, mammogram or blood tests, which can be expensive and invasive, to pick up cancerous cells.

The study, in the journal iScience, is the first to show ants have ‘high potential, are capable of learning very quickly, at lower cost, and are efficient’.

The authors, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said: ‘We show that individual ants need only a few training trials to learn, memorise, and reliably detect the odour of human cancer cells.’

The target for suspected cancer patients to be seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral may be axed.

Instead, the NHS proposed a focus on diagnosis within 28 days of referral and treatment within 31 days of a decision as it began a consultation yesterday.

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