Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Dirty Rat...!

This may be a good idea or medical tool in the future, but for some reason, I'm just not comfortable with it!

Call me crazy, call me old fashioned, but there's something about having a big rat the size of a dog close enough to me to be sniffing around that just makes me nervous!

To me any rodent that's bigger than a rabbit is NOT something I want to be around! Maybe that's just me, but I have a feeling that I may not be alone in this!

Dog-sized rats sniff out TB in patients
Eric Nathan

Yes, it's nearly as big as a chihuahua but don't be afraid. Rodents of unusual size, such as this one, could save your hide. A pilot program in Tanzania has trained them to detect land mines and also sniff out tuberculosis.
Chris Tachibana writes: Could a giant, spit-sniffing rat save your life? Maybe — they can be better than humans at diagnosing tuberculosis.

A pilot program in Tanzania is using trained rats to smell TB in sputum samples. Up to 1,000 samples a week are collected from local hospitals by APOPO, a nonprofit that also trains rats to sniff out landmines. Although the TB samples have already been checked by a human under the microscope, the rat pack’s sniff tests have improved disease detection by 44 percent because the clever rodents often find TB that was missed.

While the World Health Organization estimates that 2 billion people around the world are infected with TB, it can be hard to detect under a microscope, particularly in those who are also HIV positive. That’s where the giant rats can help. They might turn out to be just as accurate at finding TB. They're low-tech and could screen for TB in resource-limited countries. They’re also faster than the standard microscope test, says Bart Weetjens, APOPO founder. A human with a microscope can process 40 samples a day. A rat can do 40 in seven minutes, he says.

Weetjens, who was inspired by a childhood pet rat, started APOPO in the 1990s to train giant pouched rats, which are native to sub-Saharan Africa, to detect land mines in the region. The rats were so good at sniffing out hidden bombs that in 2003, APOPO started training their nosy little friends to smell TB in a spit sample. Currently working with a team of 30 rats, APOPO is now optimizing their unique program, so in the future, it might be used in other communities.

Rats aren’t the only creatures making medical diagnoses. Dogs can also be trained to find disease in humans, like smelling urine samples for signs of cancer. (One little terrier recently chewed off his owner’s big toe after sniffing out a dangerous diabetes-related infection.)

But in a nose-to-nose contest, Weetjens says rats are better than bomb- or disease-sniffing dogs.

"Whatever dogs can detect, rats can detect equally well," he says, noting a rat can be trained for one-fifth the cost. "They're more calm than most small animals, very intelligent and social, and they love humans."

Rats’ reputation as disease-carrying vermin is exaggerated. Weetjens says that in 12 years of working with the giant rats, no one at APOPO has gotten sick from them. The rats themselves are resistant to TB and many tropical diseases. "They're really lovable creatures," says Weetjens. "Like a pet you can work with."

I know that a fear of things like big rats is a little primal, but regardless of how long that fear has been around, I still don't mind admitting to having it firmly seated in my genes...

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit on the patio. No rats around that I can see!


AJK said...

That's some scary sized rat!

Anonymous said...

Can't confess to being a rat-person myself. Mice, okay, but rats....

Just realised I didn't have your link on Genes, but that has been righted now.


Adirondackcountrygal said...

I have had pet rats before, its been a while, but I like them.

Ben in Texas said...

Have seen some of the Waft Rats, or what ever, down along the Texas port of Houston area. But never any up here that large. Odd that is should come up today cause my new neighbor was telling me that she had those in a house she had just west of here. Personally I keep two cats on hand and a package of Rat Bait that I keep in the barn and under my house.

chinasyndrome said...

EEyyuck, its good that they are saving lives.But give me a cute puppy any day over a rat! No one heard me girl scream did they?Jim I am a bad man, snakes pick em up by the tail,spiders yep no prob,bad dogs talk him down,but rats.Uck.


Momlady said...

When I was MUCH younger I had a pet white rat that would ride around on my shoulder and hide under my ponytail. Given the right circumstances they are good pets. Besides, they eat less than dogs.

Fred said...

I wonder if this is where the bombo got the idea to get his people to smell the gulf shrimp for oil?

Mechanic in Illinois said...

You know they're going to stop using lab rats and replace them with lawyers. There's more of them and you become less attached to them. Thanks for another great lesson.

HermitJim said...

Hey AJK...
It is pretty scary, isn't it?

That little one in your picture is beautiful!

Thanks, Janice, for coming by today!

Hey AV...
I'm not real fond of rats myself! Don't really like the mice, but rather have them than the rats!

I appreciate the link up, my friend! Thanks for the visit this morning!

Hey Adirondackcountrygal...
White mice or rats are one thing, but these big boys are less than cute to me!

Certainly don't want one climbing in bed with me!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey Ben...
I'm thinking maybe my two cats would keep down the rat population as well, considering what they do to the lizards and the blue jays!

Gotta make them earn their keep some how, ya know?

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!

Hey China...
Don't worry about it, buddy! many of us had the same reaction!

Just imagine waking up and seeing this critter in bed with you!

I'd have to change my sheets for sure!

I appreciate the visit this morning!

Hey Momlady...
Maybe they eat less than dogs, but can they bark?

So, what kind of pet do you have around the cabin now? I'm talking 4 legged now!

Thanks, lady for coming over this morning!

Hey Fred...
You never know where some of these ideas come from!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey Mechanic...
But how good are they about finding anything that doesn't smell like money?

Certainly wouldn't want one as a pet!

Thanks for coming by, my friend!

Marjie said...

Some years ago, hubby noticed a big hole in the ground at the base of a shrub next to the garage. He gathered the 4 boys and his shotgun. (One of the boys later told us he thought at the time, "Oh, s**t. We've really pissed Dad off now.") Went to the hole, told the boys to watch for rats, and shot the base of the bush. It's been the stuff of legend for about a decade now. So, we don't like rats either.

Anonymous said...

Oh Marjie, it is not often I laugh so loud to spill my coffee... but"Oh, s**t. We've really pissed Dad off now." did it. Priceless.