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Press Release: APOPO Herorats to detect TB in Ethiopia
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WORLD TB DAY

Press release embargoed until
FRIDAY 24TH MARCH

APOPO HeroRATs to Detect Tuberculosis in Ethiopia

APOPO, the NGO that trains African giant pouched rats to detect tuberculosis in patients missed by local clinics in Tanzania and Mozambique, is proud to announce the opening of its new TB-detection program in Ethiopia, funded by the Skoll Foundation.

APOPO will work alongside the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI) an autonomous federal government organ, and the Addis Ababa Regional Health Bureau to identify more TB-Positive patients in Addis Ababa.

With a significant annual urbanization rate, Addis Ababa hosts more than 30% of the urban population of Ethiopia. Thousands of people migrate to the city in search of employment opportunities and services and often end up living and working in close quarters, fueling the transmission of tuberculosis.

The APOPO HeroRATs, currently detecting tuberculosis in Tanzania and Mozambique, help to break the TB cycle by increasing case detection in high TB burden areas. One single TB-detection rat can check 100 samples in 20 minutes – a task that would take a clinic lab technician using conventional smear microscopy (20-60% accurate) four days. Since the beginning of the program APOPO has raised the detection rates in partner clinics by over 40%.

“We read a lot in the scientific literature about APOPO’s approach to Tuberculosis diagnosis. We also watched exciting news about this project in the international media and we are very glad to partner with and host the project at our institute. We look forward to replicating the success reported from Tanzania and Mozambique here in Ethiopia.”
- Taye Tolera Balcha, MD, MPH, PhD, Director General,  Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI)

NOTE TO EDITORS – PLEASE INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING CTA’S IF POSSIBLE:

To find out more visit APOPO at www.apopo.org    
To adopt Chewa the TB-detection rat visit https://support.apopo.org/en/support-us

For more images contact lily.shallom@apopo.org



DETAILED NOTES


 

Partners and Donors


APOPO’s life saving work in Ethiopia could not be carried out with the kind support of our respected partners and donors.
APOPO Ethiopia Donors include the Skoll Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and partners include The Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), the Addis Ababa Regional Health Bureau, The German Leprosy & TB Relief Association in Ethiopia, the National Tuberculosis Control Program and the Ministry of Health.

BACKGROUND

Despite the increasing number of clinics and the involvement of private health facilities in TB diagnostics and treatment, tuberculosis is still the deadliest disease in the Addis Abba. Ethiopia is also one of the 30 high TB-burden countries listed by the WHO.

Due to their speed, the rats are able to quickly re-check all the samples sent from the public clinics and they indicate on samples they believe to be TB-suspect. These are then verified using accurate methods within 24 hours in time for the patients to receive the result when they return for their standard clinic result. The system is perfect for high burden megacity case enhancement, where many samples need to be checked very quickly.

The AHRI-APOPO project aims to contribute to the national tuberculosis control program of Ethiopia by increasing the number of identified TB patients by at least 35% in the short term, whilst building a local capacity of TB detection rats and quality personnel to create a long-term impact on reducing the TB problem in Ethiopia.
 
APOPO has already starting constructing a TB-Detection facility in the heart of the city. Lab technicians and rat handlers sourced from the local job market will soon start training, and later this year the APOPO HeroRATs will be transported from the APOPO Training and Research Center in Tanzania to Ethiopia.

About APOPO

APOPO is an award winning, non-profit 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.

 
The mine detection HeroRATs also help clear hidden landmines and explosives in Angola, Mozambique and Cambodia and will soon begin operations in Zimbabwe.
 
To date the APOPO HeroRATs have identified over 11,000 TB-positive patients missed by clinics in Tanzania and Mozambique. This has potentially halted over 81,000 further infections, and increased clinic detection rates by over 40%.
 
The HeroRATs have also helped to clear over 21 million m2 of landmine contaminated land, and destroyed over 105,000 landmines and bombs in 6 countries, helping over 900,000 people reclaim their land and economic livelihoods.

How the TB rats are trained

APOPO’s HeroRATs are trained by behavioral reinforcement (‘clicker/reward’ training, as in dog obedience exercises) to smell the presence of tuberculosis in sputum samples (mucus that comes from the lungs, which is the traditional medium used to diagnose the disease. The rats are presented with a row of 10 suspect-TB sputum samples. When tuberculosis is detected the rat hovers or scratches over the sample for 3 seconds and the samples are then retested using accurate concentrated smear microscopy. The APOPO HeroRATs are fast, accurate and cheap, giving them the potential to greatly lower the total costs of TB detection in low resource countries.
 

APOPO’s Tuberculosis Detection Program

Tuberculosis ranks as the world’s leading cause of death from an infectious disease. There are approximately 10.8 million new global cases of tuberculosis per year and around 1.8 million people die from the disease. In most sub-Saharan African countries only about half of the patients with active tuberculosis are diagnosed. Tuberculosis is a ‘disease of poverty’ that often results in economical challenges for the families involved.
  • A TB detection rat screens 100 samples in 20 minutes, this would take a lab technician four days;
  • APOPO has raised the number of tuberculosis patients found by over 40% in the clinics where it works;
  • One tuberculosis patient left untreated can infect up to 15 people in a year
 

APOPO, P.O. Box 3078, Morogoro, Tanzania

More info and pictures: lily.shallom@apopo.org
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