According to l’Oceanogràfic in a statement, “it promises to be a useful diagnostic tool to treat animals stranded on the beaches and for the conservation of these species”.
Researchers of the Oceanogràfic Foundation, in collaboration with the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi I Sunyer (Idibaps) of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and the international research institution Global Diving Research, they have developed a pioneering dolphin technique that «detects, determines and quantifies» lung ailments of a "more precise, faster and non-invasive" way, as explained by Alicia Borque, from the Research Department of the Oceanogràfic Foundation.
It is spirometry, a "widely used" technique in humans, which will allow quantification of lung ailments, some of the "most serious and common" in these marine mammals, although often their symptoms are not evident until the animal is severely affected .
So far, it has only been validated in bottlenose dolphins but it could be extrapolated to the rest of cetaceans. Currently, of the 89 known species of cetaceans, 25 (28 percent) are included in one of the risk categories of the International Union for Nature Conservation Red List (IUCN) ).
The technique has the added advantage that the measuring device is easy to transport and handle, and requires almost minimal handling of the animal.
All this is "a considerable advantage in emergency situations such as stranding, where every minute counts and establishing an accurate diagnosis in situ may be the key to the survival of the specimen," says the researcher.
The study, which has been published in the journal 'Diseases of Aquatic Organisms' and whose main author is Borque, has only been done with bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) - the most common- although, “considering that physiology and functional response from the lungs of all cetaceans is similar, it is possible that it can be extrapolated to the rest, ”says the researcher.
In addition, more research is still needed to obtain the reference values of healthy and non-healthy individuals, in order to compare the measurements.
The role of Felip Burgos, from the pathophysiological mechanisms of respiratory diseases research group, belonging to IDIBAPS, an expert with worldwide recognition in human spirometry and co-author of the publication has been decisive in the use of the cetacean technique. .