Can Rats Detect Diseases?

Rats can detect diseases, according to a 2014 research study in Tanzania. Scientists trained African giant pouched rats to sniff human saliva samples to determine which ones are positive for tuberculosis, a bacterial infection affecting the lungs. Standard tuberculosis detection by humans in a laboratory consists of examining saliva and mucous samples under a microscope and can take an entire day, while the trained rats typically take around seven minutes. The rodents have a much stronger sense of smell than humans: for every one sniff a human’s nose takes, a rat’s nose can take eight sniffs. They can also smell multiple scents at one time and differentiate between them.

More about animals detecting disease:

  • A 2011 study found that Labrador Retriever dog breed was able to detect colon cancer correctly in breath samples with 91% accuracy.
  • Scientists found that fruit flies can be genetically modified to glow when they come into contact with cancer cells, according to 2014 research from the University of Konstanz in Germany and the University La Sapienza in Italy.
  • Mice can detect birds with avian flu by sniffing their feces, which may help scientists prevent breakouts of animal-based epidemics.
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