My, what an impressive nose you have: How rats could help detect Tuberculosis

Adorable and a TB detection device!

Adorable and a TB detection device! Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dogs have powerful noses; they can be trained to sniff out anything from land mines to cancer. However, they are not the only furry, four-legged creature that relies on a keen sense of smell. The Gambian pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus, also known as the African giant pouched rat) is a large rodent (not technically a true rat) that relies heavily on its sense of smell.

What does this have to do with Tuberculosis? TB bacterium omit a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), which can then be detected by smell. The rats are being utilized in countries that can’t afford state-of-the-art testing methods, which can cost more than 20 USD per sample and require the purchase of tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. TB disproportionately affects resource-poor nations; more than 95% of deaths due to TB occur in low- and middle-income countries. Continue reading