Trained mice used to sniff out drugs smugglers

Posted by Emma Woollacott

An Israeli company says its airport security scanners can outperform existing machines - thanks to their population of rodents.

Bioexplorers describes its system as being based on 'multiple hypersensitive biosensors' - but they're mice to you and me.

The genetically-selected, specially-trained rodents can apparently detect drugs and explosives within three to six seconds. They sit in a chamber attached to the body scanner, snuffling away; and when they detect an illicit substance they run into another compartment, triggering an alarm.

"BioExplorers systems are based on combining the hyper-sensitive olfactory capability of rodents with the care-free reliability of a hi-tech machine system," the company claims.

"Bio-Explorers’ system also avoids the problems associated with dogs – high costs, limited availability and short duty cycle."

The mice are apparently well-treated, working a four hour shift before the stream of smells is switched to another compartment, giving them a well-earned rest. They're deployed in groups of four to eight, and aren't visible to any potentially musophobic passengers. And, no, they don't see you naked.

Apparently it takes about ten days to teach the mice to sniff out their first banned substance, but they learn subsequent smells more quickly.

Bioexplorers says its tested the system out in a Tel Aviv shopping mall, with the mice successfully fingering 22 people with explosives in their posckets from a total of 1,000. It's now looking for partners to help commercialise the system.

There's a YouTube demo, here.