– Dog sniffs out superbug (Telegraph, Dec 14, 2012):
A dog trained to sniff out patients with the ‘superbug’ C.difficile can clear entire hospital ward in matter of minutes with 80 per cent success rate, claim experts.
The dog, a beagle named Cliff, can sniff out the potentially deadly infection on samples taken from patients and even just from walking around the ward sniffing the air, according to a report published online in the British Medical Journal.
Dogs have been trained to sniff out a variety of diseases, warn epileptics of impending fits and can be trained to assist disabled people, but this is thought to be the first time one has been found to able to detect Clostridium difficile.
C. difficile infection most commonly occurs in older people who have recently had a course of antibiotics in hospital, but it can also start in the community, especially in care homes. Symptoms can range from mild diarrhoea to a life-threatening inflammation of the bowel and the elderly are most at risk.
Two-year-old Cliff was trained to sit or lie down near infected patients on a hospital ward in The Netherlands and was found to accurately detect positive cases of C.diff in 25 out of 30 infected patients. He only wrongly ‘diagnosed’ the infection in five out of 270 hospital patients who did not have it.
Early detection is vital to prevent transmission, but diagnostic tests can be expensive and slow, which can delay treatment for up to a week.
Cliff was able to check patients on an entire ward within 10 minutes, making him much faster than conventional tests.
Marije Bomers, of the Department of Internal Medicine at VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, said: “This could have great potential for C. difficile infection screening in healthcare facilities and thus contribute to C. difficile infection outbreak control and prevention.”