Rare mollusc detects illness

Rare mollusc can sense when humans are under the weather

A rare mollusc has been used to develop a test to detect when a human is about to fall ill.

The piddock is just two inches long, resembles a clam and lives on rocks across the British coast.

The creature glows in the dark whenever it comes into contact with chemicals produced by human white blood cells. These cells protect us from disease and increase in number when the body is fighting illness.

The discovery has been made by a husband and wife team – both doctors – based in Plymouth, who are farming the molluscs to remove the protein that prompts the blue glow.

Their ground-breaking discovery will be employed to help British Olympic athletes preparing for the games in Beijing to show sportsmen if they are likely to become ill or are stressed.

Dr Robert Knight and his wife Dr Jan have been giving advice to both sports coaches and nutritionists as well as supervising the sailing squad.

‘We can tell if people are training too hard, because their white cells get hectic,’ Dr Robert said. ‘We can also see the beginnings of infection, so a physician can prescribe antibiotics early on.’

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