Friday, January 27, 2006

Wasp trained to sniff out cancer, explosives, drugs etc.

According to this article in Medical News online, wasps (Microplitis croceipes) apparently are being trained to detect odors given off by cancer and other dangerous illegal substances. They are cheaper to train than dogs and more sensitive to odors than chemical detection methods.

This is especially interesting because my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and is now being treated with chemotherapy. She was always resistant to having mammograms-she has sensitive breasts and having them squashed was extremely painful so the tumor was only found when it was big enough to palpate. If the wasps can really smell cancer, it would be another arrow in the quiver for cancer detection. I wonder if it can find the cancer in very early stages though? I guess the dog's nose is still more sensitive but our dog who can smell days old rabbit and deer tracks didn't act any differently towards my wife, at least we didn't notice a change of behavior i.e. extra interest or sniffing. I guess the cancer was in the making for 6 years or so and we only got the dog about 5 years ago so nothing was really changed for the dog and she was habituated with the smells.

Yikes, this is turning into an entomological blog-first giant magnolia scales, then ladybugs, doodlebugs, japanese beetles, how bees fly and now wasps! Will get back to gardening one of these days.


Blogger Kathy said...

So sorry to hear about your wife's cancer. I hope she has a speedy recovery.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Kathy, thanks for your kind thoughts. The first phase of the chemo was pretty tough but she remains in good spirits...looking forward to gardening in the spring. Luckily the chemo treatment is scheduled during the winter and early spring- a gardening down time, otherwise she would have been very depressed not able to work in the garden.

5:30 AM  

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