Dogs do it. Rats do it. Even some people seem to be able to sniff out cancer and other diseases. Now we can add the humble roundworm to the list of super-smellers.
Japanese researchers have discovered that Caenorhabditis elegans worms can detect cancer in people’s urine. They are working with technology companies Hitachi and Johnan to turn the finding into a diagnostic test that can be used to catch the disease in its early stages.
…The team are now investigating whether different cancer types release different odours, and whether this has an effect on the worms. They hope to have a commercial product ready by 2019. The idea would be that users send a urine sample to the company and get the results back the next day, says Hirotsu.
It was only recently that dogs were trained to sniff out cancer, though dogs have been trained companions for detecting low blood sugar for diabetics in the past. Much as I like dogs, the worms are a much better idea for a diagnostic test. Being smaller means less space needed, and likely less resources to keep. Don’t have to walk the worms 😉
Here’s to a cost-effective, non-invasive, diagnostic test that posted a 96% success rate. No word about what stage the respective cancer was at, but the ability to test and test often is still pretty good.
I’m interested to see how the commercial aspect turns out for worms that have been used in research since 1963. I shudder at the thought of repeating the breast cancer testing fiasco, and hope they see that the volume of commercialized test sales could offset upscale pricing.