Rats used to hunt for TB in Mozambique

2012-10-12 22:13

Maputo - A swarm of trained rats is on its way to Mozambique to help the country's over-stretched health system detect tuberculosis in patients, officials said Friday.

The authorities have enlisted the much-maligned rodents to help sniff out the disease, after Mozambique's first lady learned of their success in neighbouring Tanzania.

"We had a request from the first Lady and then the Minister of Health who wanted to replicate our results," Mozambique's programme manager for Belgian NGO Apopo, Tess Tewelde, told AFP.

The organisation is in the process of building a laboratory in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, where the rats will be used to sniff their way through sputum samples from patients suspected of having the disease.

These are no ordinary household rats, but "giant pouched rats" native to sub-Saharan Africa, prized for their extraordinary sense of smell.

For the past six years, Apopo has been using what they call their "hero rats" to sniff out land mines in Mozambique left over from its civil and independence wars with great success.

"What takes a de-miner two days to clear, rats do in 30 minutes," Tewelde said.

Now the rodents will turn their attention to the country's new threat - tuberculosis, often associated with HIV infection in a sub-continent plagued by the Aids epidemic.

The disease affects six people out of every 1 000 people according to 2008 UN figures. Half of all TB cases go undetected according to the country's health ministry statistics.

Rats can help to bring these numbers down because of their speed and accuracy, Apopo said.

They can accomplish in under an hour, what a laboratory technician can accomplish in a week, said Tewelde.

"It is much cheaper and faster. Our rats can screen 400 samples in 30 minutes.

"In TB, it is important not to miss a patient. Imagine how many they can contaminate in their family and community," said Tewelde.

By the end of the year, Apopo hopes to be using around 50 giant rats for both mine-detection and TB detection - though not using the same individual animals.

"You cannot use them interchangeably. They need special training," Tewelde said, adding the young rats would probably need some time to adapt to their new home in Maputo.

"They get panicked at the beginning," he told AFP.

  • mary.kircher - 2012-10-12 22:26

    mind boggling !

      WarrenStylin - 2012-10-13 14:57

      there is a video of this on it is amazing.

  • Staalburger - 2012-10-12 22:48

    I love Mozam! Beautiful country! Unfortunately there's not a lot of wild life: if it moves, it get's eaten. Hope the rats survive...

      Busi Earthgirl Mashele - 2012-10-13 02:58

      LoL. They must go 2 Alex or Tembisa 4 more rats. Rats 4 free and they can train them hehehehehehehe...

  • andrez.kolesky - 2012-10-13 00:05

    O, I thought JuJu was going to Zim.

  • richard.t.holman - 2012-10-13 00:31


  • lchimukundi - 2012-10-13 04:16

    Tht e rats tht sa ned to sniff out e corrupted pple in e anc

  • gerrit.vanpletzen - 2012-10-13 05:27

    In Moz the rats are doing good work. They have been used for mine detection, and now for combating TB. In SA. they are running the country, and making a poor job of it.

  • sisa.mveku - 2012-10-13 06:10

    @Bennie Kruger these rats can accomplish 30minutes what it takes Western technology 2 do in a whole week.

  • fatimah.mavuso - 2012-10-13 06:34

    i wsh 2 c those rats

      WarrenStylin - 2012-10-13 15:00

      There is a website called TED. You will be able to see what these Rats can do. It is real.

  • evan.connock - 2012-10-13 07:46

    At last a delegation from one African country to another that might actually do it's job! We in SA have our own rats, only they are much bigger and they can smell out money!

  • kgobi.linah - 2012-10-13 08:32

    Rats used to hunt for TB in mozambique

  • kgobi.linah - 2012-10-13 08:33

    Rats used to hunt for TB in mozambique

  • kgobi.linah - 2012-10-13 08:33

    Rats used to hunt for TB in mozambique

      andrez.kolesky - 2012-10-13 09:21

      NO, for cheese.......

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