Giant rats trained to sniff out deadly viruses that jump from animals to humans

A group of giant 3ft-long rats are being trained to sniff out a highly contagious deadly virus that is killing off livestock in the world’s poorest countries.

The Government-funded project is aimed at teaching giant rats to sniff out Brucellosis, an infection that spreads from animals to people.

Brucellosis is most commonly found in cattle that produce raw or unpasteurised dairy products and can spread through the air or direct contact with animals.

University of Glasgow scientists are supporting the project, with Professor Dan Haydon, claiming that up to "three-quarters of new or emerging infectious diseases in humans originate from animals."

Prof Haydon used Covid as an example, which was rumoured to have originated from bats but has no certain link with the strain.

He said: "Six out of ten known infectious diseases of humans are estimated to originate from animals.

"Three-quarters of new or emerging infectious diseases in humans originate from animals, of which Covid-19 represents a particularly devastating example."

The scholar, who is the director of the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, is now working with scientists in Sokoine University in Morogoro, Tanzania, to help train rats.

Professor Rudovick Kazwala from the African uni, said rats have shown they were "very effective" in detecting landmines and hope the rodents can move onto "disease detection" in the future.

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Prof Kazwala said: "Rats have shown they were very effective in detecting landmines in Angola and Mozambique, so we moved on to disease detection.

"We had successfully trained rats to help diagnose tuberculosis and now we are using their incredible sense of smell to target brucellosis.

"The rats are conditioned over four to six months to sniff specimens. When a rat finds a positive sample, it hears a click and is rewarded. The rat learns that finding brucella means getting a food reward.|"

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