Researchers Train Honey Bees To Detect Cancer With Instant Diagnosis

The insects can ‘smell’ lung, skin, and pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases almost instantly.



Not only do honey bees pollinate our crops, evidence now suggests they could play a role in cancer detection. Studies show the Apis mellifera, in particular, has a sense of smell even more acute than that of sniffer dogs, detecting airborne molecules in the parts-per-trillion range. And, like dogs, they can be trained to detect specific odors, including the biomarkers associated with diseases such as tuberculosis, or lung, skin, and pancreatic cancer.

Unlike dogs, the bees don’t come up to patients to sniff them (thankfully), but are placed in a glass chamber developed by Portuguese designer Susana Soares. When the patient exhales into the chamber, the bees fly into a smaller secondary chamber if they detect cancer, offering an instant diagnosis.

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