APOPO is a Belgian NGO that has developed an innovative system deploying African giant pouched rats (nicknamed HeroRATs) to detect landmines or tuberculosis, using their extraordinary sense of smell. APOPO's scent detection technology has a massive potential to relieve human suffering and promote development when deployed in TB and landmine response, as well as in currently unexplored fields. APOPO has programs in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia.
Landmines injure or kill innocent civilians every day and pose a structural barrier to development, long after war ends. Trained HeroRATs can quickly and accurately detect landmines, thereby significantly speeding up the demining process. Meanwhile, there are about 9 million new cases of TB per year of which 3 million cases are not diagnosed. APOPO's HeroRATs can sniff out TB in human sputum samples, helping APOPO to raise the number of TB positive patients found by over 45% in partner clinics.
Detection rats offer an efficient and accurate alternative to combat 2 global humanitarian detection challenges. APOPO uses a readily available resource, and involves and employs local communities in the solution - thereby helping to initiate development and create positive social change. Our TB detection rats are at least as accurate as conventional routine microscopy, but up to 20 times faster. The Mine-Detection rats can search 200m2 in 1 hour, with a metal detector this would take 2-4 days.
By creating local employment and encouraging development, APOPO provides a cost-effective solution to global humanitarian challenges. The work of our trained rats reduces landmine casualties, and enables communities to utilize their land for agricultural purposes or infrastructure development. Also, fast, effective TB diagnosis means patients can access treatment sooner, reducing the spread of the deadly virus and limiting the impact on the patient's family and the wider community.
This project has provided additional documentation in a PDF file (projdoc.pdf).
TEDx talk by APOPO Founder Bart Weetjens
A Day in the life of a HeroRAT in training
HeroRATs on Facebook
HeroRATs on Twitter