Partners Involved: APOPO, African giant pouched rats
Type of Partnership: Win-Neutral for Public and Planet
Partnership Models: Sensor, Therapist
The rats are extremely well cared for. However, this partnership does not provide a regenerative benefit to the wider African giant pouched rat species. Therefore, this collaboration is considered neutral for the Planet.
APOPO’s scent detection HeroRATS have been detecting landmines and tuberculosis for 20 years. Over 60 countries are contaminated with hidden landmines and other explosive remnants of war that cause tragic accidents and hamper communities from developing their productive land. Meanwhile, slow and inaccurate detection methods make tuberculosis the world’s most deadly infectious disease. 10 million new people contract TB every year, 3 million go undiagnosed, and 1.8 million die from TB.
APOPO’s founder, Bart Weetjens bred hamsters, rats, mice and gerbils as a young boy. So when he read an article about training gerbils to detect the scent of explosives, he wondered which rodent could be used to help those threatened by landmines.
The African giant pouched rat is intelligent with a sense of smell that rivals that of dogs. They weigh 1 KG on average– too light to set off pressure-activated anti-personnel mines. APOPO says its rats can each search 200 square metres of land in just 20 minutes; it would take people using metal detectors five days.
The rats can also quickly test human sputum samples for TB. Any suspect samples are re-checked using World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed confirmation tests. A TB detection rat can check 100 samples in as little as 20 minutes. This would typically take a lab technician up to 4 days using conventional microscopy. One HeroRAT costs approximately 6000 euros to fully train.
SDGs Targeted: SDG 1 Poverty, SDG 3 Health, SDG 16 Peace & Justice
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