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article imageStudy: Detecting bird flu by smell

By Tim Sandle     Oct 20, 2013 in Science
Some diseases can modify animal odors in subtle ways. In one study, it has been shown that infection with avian influenza (AIV) alters fecal odors in mallards. This could lead to a new detection method to root out infected birds.
A recent study has suggested that a distinctive fecal odor is emitted from infected mallard ducks suggests that avian influenza infection in mallards may be 'advertised' to other members of the population. However, according to the science site Mother Nature, it is unclear whether this form of chemical communication benefits non-infected birds by warning them to stay away from sick ducks or if it benefits the pathogen by increasing the attractiveness of the infected individual to other birds.
The chemical change relates to the emission of the compounds acetoin and 1-octen-3-ol. Interestingly, these same compounds have been identified as potential biomarkers for diagnosing gastrointestinal diseases in humans. As an aside, acetoin is used as a food flavoring (in baked goods) and a fragrance. It can be found in apples, butter, yogurt, asparagus, black currants, blackberry, wheat, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe.
In a recent study, laboratory mice were trained to discriminate between feces from AIV-infected and non-infected ducks; indicating that the odor can be used to identify infected ducks.
The research was carried out by the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE. The paper is titled "Avian Influenza Infection Alters Fecal Odor in Mallards."
More about Bird flu, Smell, Odor, Avian flu, Influenza
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