WASHINGTON D.C- Interesting revelation have been made by scientists of United States who themselves were stunned to discover that the birds can detect and identify malignant cancer cells in biopsy samples and mammogram scans.
Hospitals could soon be flocking to sign up pigeons after researchers confirmed they can diagnose breast cancer as reliably as doctors.
Scientists were stunned to find the birds can be taught to recognize evidence of benign or malignant tissue in mammogram scans and biopsy slides.
Medics sometimes struggle to interpret the data after years of education, but within a fortnight the pigeons were reading it correctly in 85% of cases.
Prof Richard Levenson says: “With training and food reinforcement, pigeons do just as well as humans.
“The birds were remarkably adept at discriminating between benign and malignant breast cancer slides at all magnifications. He adds, “Accuracy from day one at low magnification rose from 50% correct to 85% days 13 to 15.”
Eight birds took part in the experiment, pecking a blue or yellow button for a benign or malignant image and getting a food reward for the right answer.
They were also as good as radiologists at detecting microscopic calcification spots on mammograms, which can be an early sign of cancer.
Pigeons have brains no bigger than the tip of an index finger but have neural pathways similar to those in humans.
They were already known to be able to distinguish between letters of the alphabet and paintings by different artists.
Prof Levenson, of the University of California at Davis, US, thinks pigeons should play a role in the development of new diagnostic procedures.
He said: “Pigeons’ sensitivity to diagnostically salient features in medical images suggest they can give reliable feedback.”