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Clever Canine Cliff Catches C. diff

Posted on December 14 2012

Dogs are amazing animals that are devoted to their people’s lives and well-being. Dogs have been trained for years as therapy or guide dogs and have been reaching into new care fields which we recently discussed in our blog “New Wave of Assistance Dogs and Patient Care.” Now, there is a new, extremely important field one very special dog is making an impact on. Cliff, a 2-year old beagle from the Netherlands has been trained to identify Clostridium difficile infections in patients. C. Diff is a highly contagious infection that results in nausea, fever, and mild to deadly diarrhea. This contagious infection is quickly spread in highly populated medical settings including hospitals and nursing homes. A recent worldwide outbreak of the infection included a strain that originated in the United States. This intestinal infection is responsible for nearly 14,000 deaths annually in the US alone. Well-trained Cliff is able to correctly identify C. Diff infections in both stool samples and in patients. Normal tests take an average of 48-hours to provide results, Cliff provides them in a few seconds. Recently put to the test, Cliff positively identified C. Diff in 50 out of 50 infected stool samples and also alerted to no-infection in 47 of 50 uninfected stool samples. Additionally, this clever canine also identified infections in 25 out of 30 infected patients and no-infection in 265 of 270 C. Diff-free patients. Cliff’s ability to early-detect the infection can considerably reduce transmission and provide early treatment. While some doctors remain skeptical of the practicality of using a dog to sniff out C. Diff in busy, chaotic clinical settings, they do believe there is value to what Cliff does. Acknowledging the amazing sensory abilities that dogs hold, as well as the many medical conditions they already detect and treat, clinicians hope that there is a place for Cliff, and other trained canines like him, in the medical field. Citing that dogs are currently being tested to sniff out different cancers, infection disease specialist Bruce Hirsch, MD, of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. states “There is no telling what else they may be trained to sniff out.” Given that a dog’s sense of smell is one of their highest rated sensory qualities, the question may not be what can they sniff out, but what can’t they sniff out. Sources: Fox News - Health - http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/12/14/dog-trained-to-sniff-out-deadly-c-difficile-superbug/ WebMD - http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/news/20121212/dog-sniffs-c-diff-infection ABC News - Health - Medical Unit - http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/12/14/beagle-sniffs-out-bacterial-infection/

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