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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Dutch scientists are training bees to detect coronavirus

Researchers at Wageningen University say that scientists are trying a new method on how to detect coronavirus with harnessed bees’ acute sense of smell. This method can be used in developing countries lacking the basic diagnostic tools. 

Startup InsectSense and Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBNR) are carrying this project out, which involves 150 bees using the Pavlov method. However, every time the bees were exposed to the virus, they got some sugar water as a reward. 

Professor Wim van der Poel said that there is no danger for bees to spread the virus, since they are not sensitive to the virus, and they do not come into direct contact with it even during the trials. 

How does the process happen? 

When someone is infected with coronavirus, a metabolic change happens in their body. Moreover, this change releases a kind of smell that bees and dogs can easily detect since their sense of smell is highly developed. The bees repeat the action, sugar water is given to them with the presence of the coronavirus smell, and then they stuck out their tongues. 

Scientists found out that training the bees takes only a few minutes, and it takes just seconds for them to identify the smell. Healthy and infected mink were taken as samples for the test. 

However, scientists hope that if this method scales up successfully, more bees can be trained and it can be used all over the world, especially in the developing countries which lack the infrastructure for diagnosis. The startup InsectSense has designed a prototype machine to train bees, and also they developed a biosensor that uses the bees to diagnose the disease. 

 

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