Monday, January 3, 2011

Tb-sniffing rats

Scientists have trained Gambian Pouched rats to identify Tuberculosis-positive sputum (mucus + saliva) samples by smell. The researchers suggest using Tb-sniffing rats in place of more expensive machines or time-intensive microscopy. Apparently the same species of rat has also been used to detect landmines.

The animals are surprisingly accurate.
"The animals’ sensitivity — that is, their ability to detect the presence of tuberculosis — ranged as high as 86.6 percent, and their specificity, or ability to detect the absence of the germ, was over 93 percent."
Not surprisingly, much of the scientific community remains skeptical, as this research was preliminary and took place in a highly controlled lab setting.

To me the most shocking part of this story is that the rats weigh 10-15 pounds!

1 comment:

John Latto said...

I love these rats. If you go to the herorat website ( you can adopt a rat. I was always reluctant to do this because I was sure my rat would get blown up (this was before they did the Tb detecting trick and just did land mine detection). However it turns out that if you want the tax deduction you don't get to pick a particular rat since you have to donate through a foundation. That actually works better for me and I've given herorat donations as Christmas presents before.