HeroRATs: Sniffing Out Landmines and Tuberculosis

by APOPO vzw

We hope this update finds you all well! Our HeroRATS our continuing their important life-saving work or sniffing our landmines and Tuberculosis!

In landmine detection, the HeroRATS have been busy working as usual—training, breeding, and demining in Mozambique. Since January 2009, our HeroRATS have already cleared 87,689 square miles in Mozambique! This is 87,689 square miles that local residents can now use for farms, schools and safe places to play for the children!

In early April, APOPO’s CEO, Christophe Cox, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and APOPO. This Memorandum of Understanding mandates APOPO as the lead agency for Mine Action in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. This agreement sanctions APOPO’s work in the region, and will help APOPO to work more in the 11 member countries in the future. This agreement is very important for the demining work in Africa, and APOPO is very grateful to play a lead role in this vital work with the ICGLR.

In Tuberculosis detection, our HeroRATS have discovered 173 patients with TB since February of 2009. These are patients that were missed by lab technicians working with microscopes, but now are able to get treatment because of the rats’ indications.

We want to send a huge thank you to our friends at Global Giving! On Tuesday, April 21, 2009, Bart Weetjens spoke to an intimate audience of current supporters, neuroscientists, demining colleagues, and interested public at the HeroRATS work. Weetjens was able to connect with supporters in the area, and discuss future possibilities with current and potential partners. A huge ‘thank you’ to Cecilia Snyder and Global Giving for putting the event on for APOPO!

We are very grateful of all for your support! It really helps us to continue our work! We look forward to working with you all more and hope you enjoy the updates!

Warm regards,

The HeroRAT Team

Ziko HeroRAT training on the field
Ziko HeroRAT training on the field

We hope this update finds you all well! Here at APOPO we are enjoying a year full of new beginnings and look forward to conquering new challenges and creating new solutions in Tanzania and Mozambique.

In landmine detection, the HeroRATS have been busy working as usual—training, breeding, and demining in Mozambique. 11 rats passed their final stages of training in December bringing the total to 53 fully trained mine detection rats in 2008! We were also blessed with ten new baby rats in our breeding program last month.

Throughout 2008 in Mozambique, our HeroRATS found 33 mines and 83 Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Additionally, due to continuous process refinement by the staff and our Program Director, we have had a giant leap in our clearance capacity; HeroRATS can now clear 2,000 square meters every day.

Our validation study with our HeroRATS as Tuberculosis detectors, is ongoing. Our HeroRATS, as a second screening for Tuberculosis suspected patients at 4 of the best hospital clinics in Tanzania, were able to identify 344 patients over the last year that were missed by human lab technicians. Those patients were contacted again by the hospitals and are now receiving treatment.

The detection of those 344 people affects far more than the 344 people that have TB. TB is an airborne disease that is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or spits near another person. Therefore it is a very contagious and rapidly spread disease, especially in densely populated areas. A person with an active, untreated case of TB can infect 15 people every single year! As more and more people go undetected, the problem grows exponentially as unknowing people infect others. However, if people with TB know that they are infected, then they can begin treatment and eventually cease to be contagious. In the next year alone, 5,160 people have been protected from developing TB because the HeroRATS have detected 344 TB positive people!

We have had a really great year thanks to our many supporters!

Your support really does make a difference. Thank you again and we look forward to hearing from you and sharing upcoming results.

Warm regards,

The HeroRAT Team


Warm regards from APOPO! We hope this finds you well.

We have just passed our halfway point in the validation study we are doing with the TB HeroRATS and wanted to fill you in on the results. As many of you know, our HeroRATS are currently acting as a second opinion for Tuberculosis suspected patients at 4 of the best hospital clinics in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Between January 5, 2008 and July 19, 2008 the HeroRATS have screened (or sniffed) samples from 4,663 patients. They found 129 people who had active TB but were missed by microscopy.

Given that 1 person with active TB can infect 10-15 people each year, HeroRATS have enabled 129 people to be diagnosed early, receive treatment, and potentially save an additional 1,290 - 1,935 from contracting TB. Additionally, given these results it can be said that case findings in these 4 centers has been increased by 2.76%.

While these are very exciting figures, it should be reiterated that the real strength of the HeroRATS as a screening tool is their skill of rapid detection. The current bottleneck remains that microscopy is a slow process, with a lab technician only screening 20 samples a day. In comparison, 1 HeroRAT can evaluate 40 samples in 10 minutes (the equivalent of 2 days work for a lab technician).

(While APOPO is still in the validation phase (in the process of scientifically proving the HeroRATS are capable of screening Tuberculosis) these findings are encouraging. Final validation results are expected to be complete by March of 2009).

We look forward to sharing future reults of the study, and more so the impact our HeroRATS are making on the lives of people here in Tanzania. They call TB the poor man's disease becuase it most often affects people living in close quarters in slums, prisons, and refugee camps. We are grateful to be getting closer to proving the rats can make a real difference, as we will then have the opportunity to reach out to these communities on a much bigger scale.

Your support really does make a difference. Thank you again and we look forward to hearing from you and sharing upcoming results.

Warm regards, Courtney and the HeroRAT team



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Organization Information


Location: Morogoro, Tanzania - Tanzania, United Republic of
Website: http:/​/​www.apopo.org
Project Leader:
Paul Delbar
Public Fundraising Manager
Sokoine University, Morogoro Tanzania, United Republic of

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Thanks to 4,662 donors like you, a total of $250,162 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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