Donations

With your financial support you will enable implementation of our projects. Learn more about how it works. Thank you very much!

Newsletter

Our newsletter keeps you informed about our projects. You can sign up here.

Search


Sniffer animals used to combat disease agents

African megacities: Latent breeding grounds for life-threatening epidemics

Urbanization does not stop in front of the African continent. Here there are megacities, i.e. agglomerations with very large populations. Incredible 72 percent of the African urban population, about 300 million people, live in the slums of these cities.

There catastrophic hygienic conditions prevail. Health risks, which are enormous, take the form of dangerous diseases, such as Ebola, cholera and tuberculosis. This is where our aid project begins.

Exploration of the olfactory fingerprint

Some pathogens exude a very characteristic odour that is only detected by humans at high concentrations. Trained animals, however, are very sensitive to it.

Our aid project is now concerned with decrypting the "scent code" of pathogens and training sniffer animals for rapid reaction in infected areas.

Dogs and rats have excellent senses of smell
Dogs and rats have excellent senses of smell | © VSF/Alexandra Pelz

Training dogs and rats to save lives

Dogs and rats can learn to identify reliably the scent codes of pathogens and thus save lives. This is due to their excellent sense of smell. Moreover, they are highly intelligent, social, playful animals.

Using specially trained dogs and rats, we want to track down pathogens, such as those responsible for cholera and tuberculosis, in African conurbations. Ideally this would permit containment of disease risk and assurance of food and drinking water safety.

The animals learn to identify the scent codes of pathogens while playing
The animals learn to identify the scent codes of pathogens while playing | © VSF/Alexandra Pelz

Our training program

Clicker training is a highly effective operant conditioning method. The sniffer animals learn that the clicking noise means "food."

As a first step they only receive the reward if they respond to the positive sample.

The next challenge for the animals is to recognize reliably a positive test sample
The next challenge for the animals is to recognize reliably a positive test sample | © VSF/Alexandra Pelz

Pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, exude a very characteristic odour. Sniffer dogs or rats can choose from three different scents in the next step.

Only when the animal pauses at the desired TBC scent does clicking occur and the animal gets food as a reward. The sniffer animals thereby learn that this was the correct response.

In the next training phase the animals learn to examine a large number of samples and to detect pathogens
In the next training phase the animals learn to examine a large number of samples and to detect pathogens | © VSF/Alexandra Pelz

Now it goes one step further. Awaiting the sniffer dogs and rats in the next training module are ten samples. In this training phase they learn to examine a large number of samples and to detect pathogens.

Only after they have passed a strict test are the sniffer animals employed in the field
Only after they have passed a strict test are the sniffer animals employed in the field | © VSF/Alexandra Pelz

The epidemic sniffer dogs and rats must pass a rigorous internal accreditation examination before they work in the field. This is a double-blind test, and to pass, all positive samples must be identified.

Maasai-Art-Logo

NACHRICHTEN

21.03.18:

Ein mögliches Infektionsszenario: Ein an Tuberkulose erkrankter Mensch scheidet den Erreger via Auswurf aus. Der Elefant nimmt das TBC-positive Sputum über den Rüssel auf. | © Christine Iben

Unser Spendenprojekt 2018: Fight back Tuberculosis

 

Neue Diagnoseverfahren retten Elefanten und bedrohte Wildtiere

Tuberkulose ist neben Aids die...

14.03.18:

Gleich im Kalender notieren: IMPFEN FÜR AFRIKA 14.-20.5.2018

Es ist wieder soweit! Ab sofort können sich Tierärztinnen und Tierärzte in ganz Österreich für...

08.03.18:

Heute ist internationaler Tag der Frau

Ein guter Grund, einmal über die Landesgrenzen hinaus zu blicken und über die Rolle der Frau in...

Weitere News

VIDEOCLIPS

Mogira - Der "Einstein" unter den Kühen

Kuh Mogira zählt bereits 12 Jahre und hat neuerdings sogar gelernt, die Wasserpumpe selbst zu...

Link zum Video von Lucas Moreto, einem unserer Maasai-Stipendiaten

Unser Maasai-Stipendiat Lucas Moreto spricht über Beweggründe für sein Jusstudium

Lucas Moreto, einer unserer aktuellen Maasai-Stipendiaten, erzählt uns in diesem Video, weshalb er...

Unsere Arbeit in Afrika - Auch Sean Penn unterstützt unseren Ansatz für effiziente Hilfe vor Ort

In diesem Video geben wir Ihnen Einblicke in unsere vielfältige Arbeit vor Ort in Afrika. Sie...

Weitere Clips
Member of the network VSF International
VSF International