Scientists train bees to detect drugs

Scientists train bees to detect drugs

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Insects have identified heroin and cocaine odors; Researchers suggest that animals could be used at airports.

Bees could replace sniffer dogs at airports, researchers suggested

Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany say they have trained bees to identify heroin and cocaine odors.

Scientists found that bees responded specifically by vibrating their antennae to concentrations of drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

They say the insects could eventually replace airport sniffer dogs as they would be "smaller, less expensive, easier and faster to train".

"We tested the ability of bees to learn the aroma of heroin and trained them to show a reliable behavioral response in the presence of a highly diluted odor of pure heroin," said the study, published online.

According to the researchers, there was no significant reaction of bees to the smell of cannabis and amphetamines.

Insect antennas are the most sensitive organs ever discovered for detecting volatile molecules, according to the study, and would be "more sensitive than the best of artificial sensors."

Thus, these animals could be used as biosensors for different types of odors and applied to detect disease, food contamination, explosive waste and drugs. But experts warned that more studies are needed.

The study also says that the perception capacity of animals varies by species. Cockroaches, for example, reacted to the presence of amphetamines and caffeine.

Thus, the research suggests an "insect-based drug detection platform" using different species.