Scientists may have found a new coronavirus rapid-testing method: Bees
Scientists say they have trained bees to stick out their tongues when they detect the scent of the coronavirus.
May 7, 2021 at 5:40 p.m. EDT
The fight against the coronavirus pandemic has scientists tapping an unlikely resource: the finely tuned olfactory sense of bees.
Dutch researchers on Monday said they have trained honeybees to stick out their tongues when presented with the virus’s unique scent, acting as a kind of rapid test.
Although it’s a less conventional method than lab tests, the scientists said teaching bees to diagnose the coronavirus could help fill a gap in low-income countries with limited access to more sophisticated technology, like materials for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
“Not all laboratories have that, especially in smaller-income countries,” said Wim van der Poel, a professor at Wageningen University, which led the research. “Bees are everywhere, and the apparatus is not very complicated.”
The scientists trained roughly 150 bees with a Pavlovian conditioning method in which they gave the insects a sugar-water solution each time they were exposed to the smell of the coronavirus. When the bees were presented with a sample that was negative for the virus, they received no reward.
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