Rats are notorious for spreading nasty diseases. Think the plague, lassa fever and even salmonella.
But could some jumbo-size African rodents help health workers diagnose diseases more quickly? They just might.
A group in Tanzania is training rats to detect tuberculosis in people. The critters in question are African giant pouched rats. They are about twice the size of your average house gerbil — and half as pretty.
The critters have very poor vision, which they make up for with a keen sense of smell. For the past decade, workers at the nonprofit APOPO have been taking advantage of the rat’s olfactory prowess to detect buried land mines around the world.
Now APOPO is tackling TB, which kills more than 1.4 million people a year.
See more photos by Jonathan Kalan for NPR.