The Seattle Times recently examined how researchers in Tanzania are training rats to diagnose tuberculosis by sniffing sputum samples. The researchers' efforts "capitalize" on the rats' strong sense of smell and appetite, according to the Times.
Bart Weetjens, a former industrial designer, developed the idea of training rats to detect TB, as well as land mines, after he visited minefields and saw German shepherds sniffing for buried explosives. Weetjens said that training the rats is simple and that it involves associating a "food reward with a target scent."
The rats, which have an average life span of six to eight years, are indigenous in many parts of Africa and are resistant to local diseases, according to the Times. Low-cost, rapid TB screening using the rats would be valuable in Africa, particularly in areas where clinics lack microscopes, according to Weetjens.
In verification tests, rats were shown to be about as accurate as human laboratory technicians who work with microscopes and 100 times faster at making diagnoses. Weetjens said that in a given week, rats spot five to 10 TB cases that hospital labs missed. Weetjens said he envisions developing mobile rat clinics that could screen samples in refugee camps, prisons and other areas with high rates of TB. Medical workers could then confirm positive samples.
However, the idea of using rats to diagnose TB is facing some skepticism, the Times reports. "When I first suggested it, everyone laughed at me," Weetjens said. Richard Chaisson of the Center for Tuberculosis Research Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University said that although the idea is novel, there are "enormous issues of practicality and feasibility."
Weetjens has acknowledged that there are challenges associated with the method but said that "out-of-the-box thinking can really revolutionize things." Other animals have shown potential diagnostic capabilities, such as dogs that appeaPage: 1 2 Related medicine news :1
. Researchers urge caution in using ear tube surgery2
. Researchers Scale to assess the Severity of Epilepsy in Kids3
. Researchers trick Alzheimers Enzyme4
. Researchers find new HIV hiding place5
. New Hair in 15 Days Could Now Be A Possibility Say Researchers 6
. Researchers developed world’s smallest toothbrus7
. Researchers discover receptor cells that can cause epilepsy
. 15 Anti-SARS Drugs Identified By China-Europe Team of Researchers 9
. Researchers reversed the process of memory loss10
. Researchers Identify Key Gene That May Help Brain Treatment 11
. Researchers Discover Protein That Causes Malaria