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Suspected TB patients leave a sputum sample in the TB clinic, which will be checked by microscopy on the presence of TB bacilli. In Tanzania, this method identifies less than half of the tested positive samples as really positive.
All collaborating TB clinics will store all their checked sputum samples to be collected by APOPO on a regular base. APOPO gets a set of positive and negative samples and correlating patient codes.
APOPO inactivates the incoming samples using heat treatment in an autoclave. This ensures that the sputum is not contagious for the trainers and the rats.
Rats screen the samples which are placed in a lineair setup under sniffing holes. A rat screens hundred samples in less then 20 minutes, a task which would take a lab technician more than two days.
When one or more rats make an indication on samples which were labelled as negative, the suspect sample status is confirmed again in the lab. The rats have identified almost 3,000 wrongly diagnosed TB patients over the last few years.
APOPO reports the additional case findings back to the hospitals and effort is made to track back the patient and start treatment. Without treatment, a TB patient can potentially transmit the disease to fifteen other people.