RAT, but for everything (2022)

How realistic is my dream of a test, similar to a COVID Rapid Antigen Test, to tell you if you're sick or not?

I enjoy the relief that a negative RAT gives, but then I wonder - I'm still potentially sick with something else, I wonder if I am contagious?
Feels a bit science fiction-y but I'd love a breathalyser style device or yes nasal swab test that will tell me if I'm sick and/or contagious (or is it just allergies?) Is this something that's remotely feasible or is this real science fiction territory?

posted by freethefeet to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

It’d be pretty straightforward to do this as a PCR test. And I suppose a multiplexed lateral flow assay (Covid antigen test format but with several test lines) could also be done. Thing with antigen tests is that you’d only pick up respiratory diseases with a Covid style test, whereas a PCR implementation (probably using your blood) could catch almost any known infectious disease).
posted by u2604ab at 6:00 AM on July 29

What exactly do you mean by "sick" here?

We can make a lateral flow / RAT test for almost any specific protein, including almost any specific virus (or family of viruses), but if you have an infection it could be one of a million different viruses, including many that are not well studied. So choosing which ones to test for would be a big problem for this plan.

Also, everyone is always carrying bacteria and viruses of many kinds without being "sick". You could have traces of anything without necessarily being infectious or unwell enough to need to change your behaviour. So deciding what threshold to put on this test and what to do with the results needs thinking through further for this plan.
posted by richb at 6:23 AM on July 29 [9 favorites]

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It’d be pretty straightforward to do this as a PCR test.

I went for a PCR test earlier this week and along with COVID I was automatically tested for Influenza A/B and RSV. It's not everything that one could be infected with (by a long shot) but I suspect it is a big chunk of the things going round and likely to cause the most problems.
posted by Cheese Monster at 6:25 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]

They definitely do make multiplex lateral flow tests for other purposes, so I think you could make one that tests for COVID, RSV, flu and, like, a couple of common adenoviruses. But the rapid antigen tests test for specific antigens, so you have to actively decide to test for things - you can't just say "all respiratory infections" because they have different markers AND the amount that would be worth reporting on is going to differ between pathogens (a dangerous amount of coronavirus might be different from a dangerous amount of RSV).

Still, let's imagine you had a multi-antigen test that had been validated to work for, say, 100 different pathogens. At this point, false positives become a real problem. This happens a lot with non-invasive pregnancy screens - all tests have a some level of false positives, and the more things you test for, the more false positives you're going to get. If the disease is rare in the population, a positive result is often much more likely to be false than true. And if there are 100 things you're screening for in the test, the chances you're going to get a false positive is 100x what it would be if you were only testing for one thing.
posted by mskyle at 6:28 AM on July 29 [6 favorites]

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When I took a PCR confirmation test for COVID the lab used a BioMerieux BioFire FilmArray, which can perform multiple PCR tests in parallel. I was given the Respiratory panel which looks for 22 different markers at the same time including most influenzas and COVID-19. They make assay panels for other groups such as 43 types of bloodborne infections and some genetic markers as well.

TLDR the technology for what you want exists and could be expanded to include most definitions of "sick". However, the US FDA severely frowns upon people performing their own diagnostic tests at home for a lot of things unless it's backed up with medical care.

Like, you can go on eBay and buy a BioFire analyzer, but you'd need a source for the reagent cartridges and typically the manufacturer wants to see your lab licensing before they will ship. That's not to say you can't find a company with less scruples and obtain one eventually.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:34 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]

Pixelcorp does a wider-spanning test modeled upon their COVID home test -- not "everything" but several things!
posted by churl at 8:48 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]

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I vote science fiction.

Because, isn't this essentially what Theranos claimed they were going to do*? It didn't go well.

* if we're being picky, Theranos said they aimed to use blood tests rather than nasal swabs or whatever - but i can't help thinking that the whole detect-anything-instantly! idea may hit similar issues no matter the specific mechanism of the test
posted by rd45 at 9:18 AM on July 29

There was a research project in the early 1990s (I think) which put chemical tests on the ends of hypodermic needles. You'd stick one into your skin and it would test for a chemical. The idea wasn't to find a specific disease but to perform a standard blood test on the spot, with no blood being removed.
As a side note, this is important not because it's quick and convenient, although that makes a huge difference, but because it's not unheard of for doctors to order enough blood tests on a newborn to kill it. One of the first things impressed on neonatal nurses is that you keep very careful track of blood tests on babies and refuse to do them past a certain point.
The outfit doing this was trying to make a chip which did every common test at once. I never heard anything more about them, which is unfortunate because even doing a single test instantly and accurately (and I think it's common knowledge that medical testing is not that accurate) would be a very good thing.
The test you're looking for would presumably look for specific antigens, which would mean a separate test for each virus or bacterium. It's easy enough to do this for one thing, but I can't see any way to make a test that picks up not just any known infection but also unknown ones.
One could go with a general approach - look for the signs which identify the body being stressed or defending itself. Given the state of computers and programming it would be simple to make a system which could do a battery of tests and also offer a diagnosis, and systems like this were postulated in the 1960s and in some use by the early 1980s.
Such a system would be of some use if it could tell if you were infected with something, but immensely more valuable if it could diagnose the majority of conditions and not just infectious agents.
There are a lot of things which can go wrong with the human body, but the number isn't infinite, and it's not as large as one might think. Even such a system couldn't administer all the tests at once it's well within the reach of modern technology.
A friend had a mechanical system which could do some of this, and it dated to about 1920.
I was once given an analogous thing, made for a different purpose, and it sold for about $12. I'm not sure why nobody has done this yet.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 12:51 PM on July 29

You might be interested in reading about testing for C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation. Problem is, inflammation comes from many sources, so it really needs to be triangulated with other information.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:49 PM on July 29

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I hate to break it to you, but a RAT test does not tell you if you're sick or not.

It tells you if you're contagious or not.

For me, this makes the tests actually more interesting. They answer the question of "If I go out tonight, will I be putting people's lives at risk?" This is the primary piece of information needed to help stop the spread of a disease. That makes them more useful to me than a PCR test!

But I'm kind of with everyone else: asking if you are "sick" or not is a value judgement more than an objective measure of biological factors. It's like asking if the weather is "good" or "bad": weather's a roiling chaotic system of heat and pressure and humidity, and one person's life-ending drought is another person's "fantastic holiday weather". Having loads of healthy, young-looking, fast-reproducing cells that don't ever die is called cancer, and we kind of don't like that very much.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:48 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]

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FAQs

What is the home of rat called? ›

Rat Habitat

Norway rats are most commonly burrowers. They build their nests outside the walls of homes or in various clumps of vegetation. Norway rats may also construct their homes beneath the edges of sidewalks or patios. As is implied by their name, roof rats prefer arboreal habitats.

How are rats harmful to humans? ›

Rodents can infect humans directly with diseases such as hantavirus, ratbite fever, lymphocytic choriomeningitis and leptospirosis. They may also serve as reservoirs for diseases transmitted by ectoparasites, such as plague, murine typhus and Lyme disease.

Why do rats exist? ›

Why do rats exist? Rats are rodents that do actually serve a purpose in the ecosystem. They are scavengers and opportunistic eaters. They will eat garbage and other things that people throw away.

How do rats move? ›

Brown rats show a tendency to be negative geotaxis which means they prefer to move downwards as opposed to upwards. Black rats are superior climbers and can climb any slightly roughed surface up or down. Brown rats can jump vertically more than 77cm and 120cm horizontally.

What do rats eat kids? ›

Fun Facts about Rats for Kids
  • Rats eat almost anything. They like meat, grain, seeds, fruit and vegetables.
  • Norway rats are big and aggressive. ...
  • Rats have sharp teeth that constantly grow. ...
  • Pet rats live about 3 years.
  • Rats can have up to 20 babies at once.
  • Rats have a good memory and sense of taste.

Are rats dirty? ›

Rats are very clean.

“People often think of rats as dirty sewer creatures, but they're actually quite clean and good about grooming,” Graham said. “In fact, rats groom more frequently and thoroughly than cats.”

Should rats be killed? ›

Killing rats is not an effective way of removing them from an area, and any killed will be replaced by others, the issues that attracted them are not addressed. Never buy poisons and traps for rats. Instead, adopt effective humane deterrence measures.

Can rats bite you? ›

Rats can bite when they feel cornered or pressured. This may happen when you put your hand inside of a rat cage or come across one in the wild. They're more common than they used to be.

Are rats friendly? ›

They will be friendly. They will be curious. And they will cuddle.” Studies suggest rats dream when they sleep, giggle when tickled and grind their teeth (called bruxing) with pleasure when stroked — similar to when cats purr.

What rats are afraid of? ›

Rats are afraid of human activity, mostly because humans are so much larger than they are. Rats also fear predators such as hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey. Other animals that rats are afraid of include your cat as well as rat terriers and other dogs that hunt rodents.

How are rats smart? ›

Like a pet dog, a pet rat can learn many tricks and can even respond to its own name. Pet rats can learn to sit up, fetch, jump through a hoop, come when called, and even walk on a tightrope. Additionally, rats can be taught to solve puzzles, run through mazes, and perform tricks.

What was the first rat? ›

Rodents first appear in the fossil record at the end of the Paleocene and earliest Eocene in Asia and North America, about 54 million years ago (Meng et al. 1994). These original rodents were themselves descended from rodent-like ancestors called anagalids, which also gave rise to the Lagomorpha, or rabbit group.

Do rats eat meat? ›

Rats are omnivores, meaning they are healthiest when they eat a combination of fruits, veggies, and meats. So, the best rat diet consists of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, plus a small portion of rat pellets or rat cube food daily.

Do cats eat rats? ›

Cats do indeed eat mice, as well as rats, other small mammals, and birds. The act of cats 'playing' with their food is so that they can hone their hunting skills.

Would a rat eat a rat? ›

Some rats will kill and eat their own kind to survive. (Corrigan says the Seattle park rats were likely “duking it out for the kill.”) Others will strike out into the unknown, looking for new food sources. Rats raid a trash can in lower Manhattan before the coronavirus pandemic.

Can a rat eat a baby? ›

Rats can eat their own babies, but they aren't alone in doing so. Infanticide is more common in the animal world than most people realize. She can go down this route due to a number of reasons and causes, and they are all due to something that is out of her control.

Do rats eat eyes? ›

However, when his relatives came to the mortuary on Wednesday morning, they noticed that the eyeballs and eyelids of the corpse had been eaten by rodents, they said.

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Rat bites usually look like a small, single puncture wound or a number of small cuts. They also tend to bleed and cause painful swelling.

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Gentle chirps or clucks, grinding, squeaks, and hissing are a few of the vocalizations you will hear. The context usually gives you a hint about whether your rat is happy, content, upset, scared, or in pain. Often, higher-pitched, faster-tempo noises indicate a rat is disturbed.

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Traps are one of the most effective ways to get rid of rats fast. For best results, consider using snap traps, which are a fast method to kill rats instantly. To prevent other animals from getting into the traps, place them inside a box or under a milk crate.

Do rats fart? ›

They are large herbivores with many stomachs and a large quantity of (harmless) bacteria that produce gas . Rats, on the other hand, are omnivores, but depending on the types of food a particular rat eats and how much it eats, it may also fart often.

Are rats scared of noise? ›

Rats and rodents in general are very sensitive to sound, since it's one of their main tools for survival. Any new or unexpected noise will frighten them and send them scurrying.

What can poison a rat? ›

Ammonia. This is known as a cleaning agent, but it also acts as a poison to mice and rats. All you need to do is mix 2 – 2 and a half cups of ammonia, 100 – 200 mL of water and a 2-3 spoonful of detergent in a bowl.

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While rats are comfortable in the light, they will typically avoid it simply due to their nature. There are also certain types of lights that they may make additional effort to avoid, such as flashing lights. That is why so many companies sell light machines designed to deter rats; they have their basis in fact.

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Rats are exceptional climbers, undeniably. Also the little cousin of the rat, the mouse, can reach counter tops and tops of dressers. For that reason, it is safe to think that a rat can conveniently climb onto a bed. Additionally, a pet rat owner can personally say that a rat can get into a bed.

Are rats afraid of dogs? ›

We already know that there is a natural dislike between cats and rodents as they have a predator-prey relationship. Dogs are pretty terrifying to smaller animals and have a strong hate/fear relationship with cats, the predators of rodents. So it should stand to reason that rodents would be terrified of canines.

Can rats jump? ›

Excellent jumpers: Rats can jump vertically 36 inches and horizontally 48 inches. Dropping from a height of 50 feet doesn't kill or seriously injure rats. Squeezing through small openings: Rats have flexible skulls and can fit through openings a half-inch in diameter.

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They will even try to groom their human companions as if these people were other rats in their “rat pack.” Pet rats love the warmth and contact of their caretakers and are actually very cuddly! 4.

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If your rat is interested in maintaining physical contact with you, it means they love and trust you. You may see them follow you around the house, seek your attention by standing on two legs in front of you, or invite you to play together. They all mean they like to spend time with you.

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Teaching your rat its own name is an easy and fun first step in training. With a few treats and some practice, your rat will learn to recognize its own name and come to you when called.

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They typically live anywhere humans live. Many rat species also live in trees.

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Rats and mice are most common in roof spaces, then cellars and cupboards. They can also live in wall spaces.

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Some species of rats create underground pathways or burrows. These underground nests usually consist of food storage areas and living spaces. There is usually one main entrance and 1 or 2 other entrances which may be less obvious or concealed.

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Rat Nests. Rats nest in burrows but also rat nests can be found in lofts, attics, under eaves and even in cavity walls. They will shred available materials such as loft insulation, cardboard and other soft items to make nests.

Do rats eat meat? ›

Rats are omnivores, meaning they are healthiest when they eat a combination of fruits, veggies, and meats. So, the best rat diet consists of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, plus a small portion of rat pellets or rat cube food daily.

What can rats not eat? ›

Toxic foods are poisonous to rats and should be completely avoided.
  • Avocado skin and pit.
  • Chocolate.
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  • Mango (causes kidney damage)
  • Green potato.
  • Fluorinated and/or Chlorinated Water (use only filtered water, never tap water)
  • Green bananas.
  • Uncooked/dried beans (contains toxic hemaglutin)

How are rats smart? ›

Like a pet dog, a pet rat can learn many tricks and can even respond to its own name. Pet rats can learn to sit up, fetch, jump through a hoop, come when called, and even walk on a tightrope. Additionally, rats can be taught to solve puzzles, run through mazes, and perform tricks.

What kills rats fast? ›

Traps are one of the most effective ways to get rid of rats fast. For best results, consider using snap traps, which are a fast method to kill rats instantly. To prevent other animals from getting into the traps, place them inside a box or under a milk crate.

Will rats get in your bed? ›

Rats are exceptional climbers, undeniably. Also the little cousin of the rat, the mouse, can reach counter tops and tops of dressers. For that reason, it is safe to think that a rat can conveniently climb onto a bed. Additionally, a pet rat owner can personally say that a rat can get into a bed.

Where do rats go at night? ›

At night, rats may come down from where they are living in your attic or loft, and make a beeline for the kitchen. They attack any food that has been left out, and may also rummage through your cupboards. If you have dirty dishes in the sink, rats will also feed from those.

Why do rats come out at night? ›

Rats may also be more likely to come out during the day when they are accustomed to being around humans. However, rats are generally more nocturnal because they are more difficult to spot by predators, such as hawks and other birds of prey at night. It's not unusual to see rats during the daytime.

What time do rats come out? ›

Playtime & Exercise – Rats are nocturnal, or most active at nighttime. Since rats are very social creatures, most of their activity and playtime will be at night.

Do rats hide during the day? ›

Rats are nocturnal creatures that are most active during the nighttime. Being more active in darkness makes them able to hide from predators with greater success. During the day, rats generally live and sleep in dark hidden places to ensure their survival.

Where do rats hide the most? ›

Rats like to hide in the following spots in and around the house:
  • Internal but isolated areas like attics, walls, lofts, and basements.
  • Outside areas with places to hide and things to chew like gardens.
  • Dark, wet places with things to eat like drains and sewers.
  • Dark storage areas like garages and sheds.
Feb 27, 2019

Is rat poop harmful? ›

Anyone who comes into contact with infected rodent droppings, urine, saliva, nesting materials, or particles from these, can get hantavirus disease. Exposure to poorly ventilated areas with active rodent infestations in households, is the strongest risk factor for infection.

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