Flanders donates €1.1 million for HeroRATs in Maputo

On September 29th, the Government of Flanders pledged 1.1 million euros to APOPO in Mozambique for its TB-detection program using scent detection rats.

In 2012 APOPO and its partner the Eduardo Mondlane University built and equipped a TB detection rat facility on the university campus in Maputo. The TB-detection rats have since been helping the Mozambique APOPO team identify tuberculosis from sputum samples sent to the lab from local clinics, and have found 2,858 TB-positive patients who were initially missed by the clinics. This has raised the TB-detection rate of partner clinics in Mozambique by 50%.

The World Health Organization announced in October 2015 that Tuberculosis now kills more people globally each year than HIV and malaria, making it the world’s top infectious disease killer. More than 80% of TB-related deaths are reported from 30 high-burden countries of which Mozambique is ranked in the top 20. In March 2006, tuberculosis was declared a national emergency.

APOPO's TB project in Mozambique was designed to replicate the successful results of the TB detection rats in Tanzania and contributes to the Mozambican National TB Control Program by effectively increasing the number of identified TB patients in the capital. A total of 16 health centers in the city of Maputo are collaborating with the project by providing sputum samples of TB suspected patients. HeroRATs sniff all the suspected samples, revealing additional TB cases initially missed by the local clinics. Due to their speed and sensitivity, HeroRATS can identify TB positive patients at a much faster rate than standard diagnostic methods scanning 100 patient samples in just 20 minutes. This would take a lab technician at a public clinic up to 4 days.

“I joined APOPO in the fight against TB after my sister suffered from it two years ago.” says Onesia, a rat handler at APOPO’s Maputo clinic. “Many of my family were initially skeptical and scared of them – they thought rats were stupid, dirty things. In fact they are tame, very clever and extremely impressive to see work. The HeroRATs are helping save lives everyday - our lab is very successful, beyond what we had hoped for and we are making a difference to positive TB diagnoses in Maputo.”

APOPO would like to recognize the partnership and commitment of the Government of 
Flanders whose generous support helps make our life-saving work in Maputo possible.