APOPO, a social enterprise NGO, trains Detection Rats to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis in human sputum samples. In APOPO’s laboratories in Tanzania and Mozambique, rats sniff a series of 10 holes in a line cage, under which human sputum samples are placed for evaluation. When a rat detects TB in a sample, it indicates by keeping its nose in the sample hole and scratching at the surface of the line cage. Exceptionally fast, a trained rat can evaluate up to 40 samples in less than seven minutes. A laboratory technician would take a day to process the same number of samples using a microscope.
APOPO’s Detection Rats provide second-line screening to twenty nine partner DOTS Centers, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Maputo, Mozambique. In the last three years, this second-line screening increased new TB case detection rates of APOPO’s partner hospitals by more than 35%.
APOPO hopes Detection Rats will have an important role to play in screening large and at-risk populations. Dr. Emilio Valverde, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., joined APOPO in September 2012 as Program Manager for the TB project in Mozambique. He has a PhD in Medicine, and extensive professional experience in Mozambique, where he lives and has worked since 1998. Before joining APOPO, Emilio worked for UNDP, Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, and most recently with Friends in Global Health (a Mozambican non-governmental organization affiliated with the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health). Currently, he holds appointments as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, and Clinical Instructor at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
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