Bees Trained to Detect Covid-19
According to a press release from Wageningen University, scientists in the Netherlands have trained bees to detect COVID-19 using their sense of smell.
In Wageningen University’s bio-veterinary research laboratory, more than 150 bees were used in the study.
Any time the bees were exposed to the scent of a mink infected with COVID-19, the scientists gave them a treat – a sugar-water solution. The bees would not be rewarded if they were exposed to a non-infected sample (a process known as Pavlovian conditioning).
Bee is not the only animal used as such
The bees eventually learned to recognise a contaminated sample in a matter of seconds, and they would stick out their tongues like clockwork to catch the sugar water.
COVID-19 has been detected by the smell in animals for a long time, but bees aren’t the first to notice it. Dogs have also been equipped to differentiate between positive and negative COVID-19 samples from human saliva or sweat with a high degree of precision, according to researchers. In a small German study, dogs were able to correctly classify positive COVID samples 94% of the time.
Because of the coronavirus’s physiological changes, an infected person’s bodily fluids smell slightly different from a non-infected person’s.
Research Don’t think it as Alternative for PCR Unit
Animals may be the best bet for sniffing out COVID-19 cases outside the lab, but researchers aren’t positive.
“No one is claiming they can substitute a PCR unit,” said Holger Volk, a veterinary neurologist, in a statement to Nature. Lab technicians use PCR machines to process regular COVID-19 swab samples.
At the very least, such animals may aid in the detection of COVID-19 in areas or countries where high-tech laboratory equipment is scarce or unavailable.
Wageningen researchers, for example, are developing a prototype of a system that can train several bees simultaneously and then use their skills to detect coronavirus aerosols (tiny virus-laden particles) in the atmosphere.