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Giant Rats Attack Tuberculosis In Tanzania

Giant rats are being used to sniff out the potentially deadly disease tuberculosis (TB) in Tanzania. The detection rates have been so successful that they now plan to double the number of clinics where these rats are used, from 29 to 60.

The rats were introduced in Tanzania in 2007 by APOPO, a Belgian charity. What makes these rats so amazing is how fast they can test samples. The charity claims that trained rats can screen 100 samples in only 20 minutes, versus four days it would take for a lab technician to do the same amount of work.

The giant pouched rats of sub-Saharan Africa are so named because of their large cheek pouches. They measure 2-3 feet long, and weigh about 3 pounds.

Training for these rats begins when they become four weeks old, and takes about nine months to complete. African giant pouched rats usually live to eight years old, so the charity makes a pretty good return on their investment.

TB is one of the top ten causes of death in the world, but it is curable, and can be prevented.

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there were an estimated 10.4 million cases of TB worldwide. A total of 1.7 million people died from this disease in 2016.

For every 100,000 people who live in Tanzania, 287 may be infected with TB. Tanzania is one of 30 nations that the WHO views as a TB hotspot.

If you would like to support APOPO and the good work they do, you can check out their store at www.apopo.org . There you can adopt a rat for $7 a month (don’t worry, it stays in Africa), get a hat, t-shirt, or pick up an adorable plush version of their HeroRAT that you can bring home.