Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hero Rats

Today we talked briefly about training rats to detect land mines and tuberculosis through their sense of smell. The group APOPO trains African giant pouched rats to smell a patient's sputum to test for TB, or to detect the smell of TNT to clear areas of land mines. The TB rats are trained for nine months and then go on to screen thousands of samples per month. In an article about the rats it was stated that a single rat is able to accurately pick out a TB sample two thirds of the time. This method is extremely useful in developing countries where the technology needed to detect the disease is difficult to obtain due to cost. The land mine rats are trained in Tanzania and then, once accredited, are sent to post war countries such as Mozambique. When they find a mine they will scratch the ground and are rewarded with banana if they are correct. Through this program, about 4,000 land mines have been found and destroyed. On APOPO's website you can learn more about the process of training the rats and even adopt one.

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