Saturday November 17, 2018

Now Rats may help in Detecting Tuberculosis

The rats learn to recognize the presence of TB in samples of mucus that is coughed up from the patient's lower airways.

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Rats and treatment of Tuberculosis
FILE - An African Giant Pouch rat is seen before a training session where the rats will learn to detect tuberculosis (TB) at a laboratory in Sokoine University for Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania, Jan. 31, 2006. VOA
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London, November 16,2017:

Giant rats are probably not the first thing that come to mind to tackle tuberculosis but scientists hope their sniffing skills will speed up efforts to detect the deadly disease in major cities across the world.

Tuberculosis, which is curable and preventable, is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), killing 1.7 million people in 2016 and infecting 10.4 million others.

African Giant Pouched Rats, trained by Belgian charity APOPO, are known for sniffing out landmines in countries from Angola to Cambodia and for detecting TB cases in East Africa.

Over the next few years, APOPO plans to fight tuberculosis at the source by launching TB-detection rat facilities in major cities of 30 high-risk countries including Vietnam, India and Nigeria.

Rats can play a role in containing Tuberculosis
Dr. Simon Angelo (L) examines Iman Steven suffering from tuberculosis, held by her mother (R) at the hospital of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), June 15, 2016, at the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan. VOA

“One of the best ways to fight TB at source is in major cities that draw a lot of people from the rural areas,” James Pursey, APOPO spokesman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It is a vicious circle. You can be reinfected. To fight TB, you have to hit it hard,” he said by phone from Zimbabwe.

Many people get infected in big, densely populated cities and spread the disease to rural areas, according to Pursey.

The rats learn to recognize the presence of TB in samples of mucus that is coughed up from the patient’s lower airways.

In Tanzania, people in communities where TB is most common, including in prisons, often fail to show up for screening because of a lack of money or awareness, placing a huge burden on health authorities, health experts said.

“TB is a disease of poverty,” said Pursey. “If nothing changes it can only get worse.”

The APOPO has seen the TB detection rate increase by 40 percent in clinics it has worked with in Tanzania and Mozambique, according to Pursey, who said that using rats to screen did not negate the need for proper diagnostic testing.

While a technician may take four days to detect a case of TB, a trained rat can screen 100 samples in 20 minutes, and a rat screening costs as little as 20 US cents, APOPO said.

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Tuberculosis A Vicious Epidemic: Deputy UN Chief

The WHO released its annual TB report. It found cases in all countries and among all age groups.

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A relative adjusts the oxygen mask of a tuberculosis patient at a TB hospital on World Tuberculosis Day in Hyderabad, India. VOA

Tuberculosis (TB) is a vicious epidemic that is drastically underfunded. That was the takeaway message from the first high-level meeting focused on the infectious disease at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Amina Mohammad, U.N. deputy secretary-general, said the disease is fueled by poverty, inequality, migration and conflict, and that an additional $13 billion per year is needed to get the disease under control.

Last year, tuberculosis killed more people than any other communicable disease — more than 1.3 million men, women and children.

The World Health Organization estimates that the 10 million people who become newly infected each year live mostly in poor countries with limited access to health care.

TB
The Bacteria that causes Tuberculosis

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, told the assembly that partnership is vital to end the disease. He said the WHO is committed to working with every country, partner and community to get the job done.

The WHO plans to lead U.N. efforts to support governments and other partners in order to drive a faster response to TB.

Most people can be cured with a six-month treatment program. But as world leaders told the assembly, medication is expensive, and the stigma associated with TB interferes with getting people screened and treated.

Nandita Venkatesan, a young woman from India, told the assembly about the toll the disease has taken on her life. She got TB more than once, including a drug-resistant variety. She said it robbed her of eight years of her life while she was being treated. One of the medications she took to help cure TB robbed her of her hearing.

TB
Amina Mohammad, U.N. deputy secretary-general, said the disease is fueled by poverty, inequality, migration and conflict, Pixabay

Venkatesan said getting cured involved hospital stays, six surgeries and negative reactions to at least one drug used to cure her.

Also Read: Statistics of Babies Born With Syphilis Dobles Since 2013

Just days before the high-level meeting, the WHO released its annual TB report. It found cases in all countries and among all age groups. It also found that two-thirds of the cases were in eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa and Nigeria.

The meeting ended with the adoption of a declaration intended to strengthen action and investments for ending TB and saving millions of lives. (VOA)