• Nosing around

    Nosing around

    The Gambian pouched rat – or Cricetomys gambianu – has a highly sensitive nose that has helped clear more than 13 000 landmines across the continent. And now they’re being trained to detect TB among prison inmates in Tanzania and Mozambique.

    According to APOPO (the Belgian NGO behind the initiative), TB claims 1.5 million lives every year, and an untreated TB patient can infect up to a dozen people. Normally, TB is detected by microscopy of a sputum smear – a slow and costly process that isn’t always accurate. But thanks to APOPO’s new TB-detecting rats, the accuracy, speed and cost of testing is set to greatly improve.

    As reported by AFKInsider, other animals (including dogs) have been used in experimental screening of diseases but rats have come the closest to a 100% success rate.

    The rats can detect TB in a sputum sample within one second, and screen thousands of smears every month. They’re also able to sniff out cases with very minimal parasites. APOPO aims to expand the programme to prisons, shanty towns, factories in both regions, as well as in other countries with a high TB rate.

    5 April 2016
    Image: APOPO