Working Lives: Maputo

WATCH: Working Lives Maputo: Catia Rodrigues talks about her work as a rat trainer for a health initiative.

Rats are generally considered a public health risk, not a benefit. Yet, in Mozambique an imaginative programme is making use of the rodents' remarkable sense of smell.

Rats are already used to detect land mines in Mozambique, a legacy of the country's civil war. Now, with the help of Catia Rodrigues, rats are sniffing out another threat: tuberculosis, which kills up to 50,000 Mozambicans every year.

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The 23-year-old has eight sleek Tanzanian pouch rats in her lab. This is Catia's first job since finishing her studies and she and the rats all started work together.

"We all trained together for three months in Tanzania," she says. "At first I was afraid, but now I understand their personalities and respect them."

Her friends were initially incredulous but Catia explains the rats can detect highly infectious TB in saliva samples in just minutes rather than the hours needed using a microscope.

Each rat does two sessions daily and is rewarded with mashed bananas and nuts for each positive detection.

Catia's pay is only $250 (£165) a month but her reward is knowing she is saving lives.

"I'm proud of my work," she says.

The confidence the job gives her, has encouraged her to study at night for a law degree.

Rats, Catia says, can be inspirational.


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