Mighty Mouse to the Rescue! Well, almost...

February 3, 2011
by Ilana Seff, RESULTS Global Intern

Gambian Pouched Rat Wikimedia Commons

Picture this: You walk into a clinic in Bangladesh to have the nurse examine a simple cough. As you approach the door, you see rats on leashes sniffing furiously at incoming patients. “Are they security rats?” you wonder. Actually, my friend, they are health rats!  Rather than awaiting the smell of drugs, they are anxiously sniffing for the scent of disease. Tuberculosis, to be specific.   

That’s right, numerous studies show that rats can be trained to accurately identify the smell of TB bacterium in human phlegm. Scientists have been aware of this murine talent for several years, but recent studies indicate that the technique may be even more accurate and effective than previously thought. The rodents can recognize the bacterium with 86 percent accuracy and have been able to identify 44 percent more cases than the standard detection method (looking at sputum through a microscope). Check out this great article and the below video to learn about the training involved and to see these amazing sputum sniffing rats in action!


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