Bomb-sniffing 'hero' rats could be trained to detect coronavirus, say researchers

BOMB-sniffing "hero" rats could be trained to weed out cases of coronavirus, researchers have said.

The innovative idea comes after an African giant pouched rat called Magawa was given a George Cross meddle for helping detect 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions this year with its super-sensitive smelling skills.

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Scienctists from Belgian-registered, Tanzania-based charity Apopo have said they could give the rodents – known as HeroRats – special training to sniff the chemical compounds present in coronavirus.

Magawa was given the animal equivalent of the George Cross medal yesterday for his incredible ability to pick up landmines just with his powerful nose.

The rats have already proved extremely effective in finding early cases of tuberculosis in Tanzania, finding 40 per cent more positive cases than hospitals do.

CEO and co-found of Apopo, Christophe Cox, told the Telegraph the rodents could achieve similar results with Covid-19.

Mr Cox told the Telegraph: “The question always came up; can you train rats to detect Covid?

"I don’t know the answer yet, but for sure if dogs can do it, rats can do it.”  

The charity said the rats can detect anything with a "unique odor-profile".

But training the rats could cost up to €10,000 and take around 3 months.

The super-smelling rats aren't the only animals in the line-up to sniff out coronavirus.

Dubai airport has deployed a crack team of dogs to sniff out cases of coronavirus.

The sniffer dog scheme works by taking samples from passengers armpits before it is placed inside a container in an isolated room.

Specially-trained canines then sniff the samples through a funnel-like contraption –  and have managed to pick up 92 per cent of passengers who are infected with Covid-19.

If they detect coronavirus, the passenger is then directed to take a nasal swab test.

The dogs never come in direct contact with the passengers. 

Helsinki Airport in Vantaa is also using coronavirus dog sniffers in a Finnish trial.

The researchers leading the Finnish trial said dogs can detect Covid-19 in humans days before they develop symptoms.

Magwa the rat was trained by the charity in Tanzania and flown to Cambodia to track down unexploded mines.

It’s the first time a rat has won the medal. All 29 previous animal gongs went to dogs.



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