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African Giant Pouched Rat May Be More Effective Than Humans At Detecting TB

The Wall Street Journal examines the use of the African giant pouched rat to detect tuberculosis (TB) in lab samples. A study published online in the Pan African Medical Journal last month found the rats are “better than human lab techs at identifying TB bacteria in a dollop of mucus,” a finding that “holds promise for diagnosing tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the newspaper. While “[t]he rats turn up many false-positive findings of TB, so the results need to be confirmed by conventional lab methods, … [a] rat takes seven minutes to work through the same number of samples as a lab technician would assess in a full day,” according to the researchers, the newspaper reports. The rats are being trained in Tanzania by the non-governmental organization Apopo, which “primarily trains African giant pouched rats to sniff land mines for de-mining activities in Mozambique, Thailand and other countries,” the Wall Street Journal notes (Robinson (9/6).

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