APOPO’s African Giant Pouched Rats Double Their Life-Saving TB-Detection in Tanzania

APOPO’s Pioneering HeroRATs Expand to a Total of 57 Clinics and Hospitals supported by Tanzania’s Health Authorities

MOROGORO, Tanzania — APOPO is proud to announce its Tuberculosis Detection Rats program is expanding from the current 29 partner clinics in Tanzania to a total of 57. The expansion exhibits confidence in the program by Tanzanian health officials.

Twenty-seven of the new partner clinics are already supplying TB-suspect sputum samples to APOPO’s TB-detection facilities, with the last two expected to come online in the next two weeks. The new clinics are located in Dar es Salaam (17), Dodoma (8) and Morogoro region (4). With these new additions, APOPO now covers up to 85% of presenting TB patients in Dar es Salaam with aims to achieve 100% coverage as it has done in Maputo, Mozambique.

“APOPO is very encouraged about the support and trust in our diagnostic service,” says APOPO’s Head of TB, Dr. Lena Fiebig. “Along with the success of our program in Mozambique, and the new facility in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, we are achieving increases in TB detection rates of 40% and are better linking patients to care. But still, last year alone there were an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide, and 1.7 million deaths globally. APOPO is proud to support the global plan to end tuberculosis as a public health problem by 2030.”

APOPO’s TB detection rats aim to fill the gap in current diagnostic tools by supporting clinics that are often underfunded, underequipped and suffer from power shortages that disrupt daily operations. Clinics use conventional smear microscopy, which is slow and its sensitivity often poor. In some Sub-Saharan African countries, over 50% of TB patients remain undiagnosed or untreated and globally this number is as high as 4.1 million. These ‘missed’ TB positive patients usually include the most vulnerable and those without proper access to care – the elderly and young, people living in poverty, people in remote communities, those with HIV, miners and migrant communities. Sent home without treatment, a TB-positive patient can pass the TB pathogen on to up to 15 other people within a year, creating a vicious cycle that APOPO aims to break. The TB epidemic can only be successfully curbed if we are able to find and treat these patients.

APOPO collects clinic-tested samples from partner clinics by motorbike courier and transfers them to APOPO’s centralized testing facilities in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro. The TB-detection rats quickly screen the samples so that lab technicians can carry out confirmatory tests on ‘rat-suspect’ samples using LED fluorescence microscopy, a more accurate diagnostic method to the standard smear test microscopy carried out in clinics and hospitals. Due to the fast screening speed and triaging of the rats, APOPO reports additional cases found, back to clinics in Maputo and Dar es Salaam, for when patients return for their standard clinic results, within 24 hours. A TB detection rat screens 100 samples in 20 minutes, something that would take a lab technician around four days.

By helping to fill the gap in diagnosis and enhance linkage to care, APOPO aims to support one of the recent WHO pillars of its strategy to end TB – ‘achieve universal health coverage by strengthening health systems and improving access to people-centered TB prevention and care so no one is left behind’.

Although high-end technology is being rolled out globally, it can be inhibited by lack of funding and requiring expensive, specialized maintenance needs. APOPO’s detection rat technology is cheap, fast, simple and originates from countries that suffer from the TB epidemic. The gap in diagnosis remains, but as long as it exists APOPO is strengthening existing systems, pursuing innovative R&D in partnership with Tanzanian universities and continuing to save lives every day.

The clinic expansion in Tanzania is funded by the Swiss and German governments. APOPO Tanzania is partnered with The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program, The Sokoine University of Agriculture, The Tanzania Veterinary Agency, End TB Tanzania, The Stop TB Partnership, OpASHA and the National Institute for Medical research. Donors also include the UK Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, UKAID, HDIF and USAID DIV.

APOPO is an award-winning international NGO that has developed an innovative method deploying African giant pouched rats, nicknamed “HeroRATs”, to detect landmines and tuberculosis using their extraordinary sense of smell. APOPO’s headquarters, training and research center is based in Morogoro, Tanzania and the HeroRATs detect tuberculosis in Tanzania, Mozambique, and soon Ethiopia.

For 20 years, APOPO (which stands for Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling in Dutch, or Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development) has faced the landmine issue in seven countries, including Cambodia, Angola and, notably, Mozambique, where it played a key role in the country achieving ‘mine-free’ status in 2015.

The HeroRATs have helped clear over 106,000 landmines, identified over 12,000 TB-Positive patients who were missed by their clinics, and prevented almost 90,000 potential infections of tuberculosis – today’s biggest infectious disease global killer.

Adopt a HeroRAT

A HeroRAT adoption is the most exciting animal adoption on the planet. Join forces with a detection rat as it sniffs out danger and saves lives every day. https://www.apopo.org/en/adopt.

Stacey Murray | Account Executive Melwood Global | 7979 Old Georgetown Road | Ste 800 Bethesda, MD 20814 | www.melwoodglobal.com<http://www.melwoodglobal.com/> +1 240.630.4873 (desk) | +1 563.608.5720 (mobile)