Ants Can Be Trained to Detect Cancer

A new study shows that ants are as effective as dogs at detecting cancer, and can be trained to do so in as little as 30 minutes.

We already know that dogs have extraordinary olfactory abilities. Previous studies have proven their ability to sniff out diseases such as cancer, malaria, and COVID-19. However, a recent New Atlas article discussed a new study that suggests ants can easily be trained to detect cancer just as effectively in just 30 minutes. The study was conducted in France and explored the feasibility of training Formica fusca ants.

Previous studies showed that ants can hone in on specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and types of cancer can be identified by their unique VOCs. The team found that in as little as three training sessions, they were able to effectively teach the ants to differentiate between cancerous cells and non-cancerous cells with the same accuracy as dogs. The training took just 30 minutes, compared to 6-12 months for dogs, suggesting ants could be a more cost-effective option. It’s worth noting that the study was just for proof-of-concept, and we’re still a long way away from having real life ant pathologists. 

More in Quick Hits