Chewa is one of the biggest HeroRATs of all time weighing in at monstrous 1.36kg. Chewa’s weight meant he was always destined to sniff out tuberculosis rather than landmines (just in case he set them off!). Chewa, pronounced CHEH – WAH, means brave in Swahili — but his handlers call him Mchapakazi, which means ‘the hard worker’.
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, every morning, a little medical specialist known as Chewa gets up, excited about his day. For two 20 minute sessions, punctuated by a nap and some recreational time with co-workers, he quickly tests 100 samples of human sputum for the presence of tuberculosis. He does this by sniffing deeply at each sample then lets his human colleagues know when he finds TB, by scratching over the sample.
An untreated tuberculosis patient can infect up to fifteen other people a year. Almost 10 million people worldwide contracted TB in 2014, and some 1.5 million of those died. The disease is largely curable, but first it must be diagnosed. That's where Chewa come in.
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