Training African Rats As A Cheap Diagnostic Tool
The WHO estimates that there will be eight million TB casualties by the year 2015, a 400 percent jump from current levels. In Tanzania, some 40 percent of TB-cases are HIV related. Nevertheless, it has been proven that if detected in an early stage, TB cases can be treated effectively, even in HIV positive patients. The WHO promotes the use of sputum smear microscopy as an affordable diagnostic method for the detection of TB in low income countries. But the analysis is slow, as qualified lab technicians can take a full day to analyze just 20 samples. There is also a need for highly qualified staff who can prepare smears and interpret microscopic images. This poses a problem, as lab technicians cannot process the number of samples pouring into Tanzania's labs.
To help make Tanzania's detection of tuberculosis (TB) more reliable, faster, and more cost-effective by using rats to detect TB in saliva samples.
To expedite the process, this project proposes that trained Cricetomys rats be used as biosensors to sniff out TB in human saliva samples. This is an innovative, faster and more efficient approach than previous methods because it requires neither a highly qualified staff nor expensive equipment. In one day, one rat detection set-up could process some 2,016 samples, compared to the maximum 20 samples analyzed per day by a technician using a microscope. This project is expected to result in a fast, cheap and reliable TB diagnostic method, targeting a population of over 34 million.