Hospitals test whether dogs can sniff out C. diff

After infection control teams in the Netherlands and Vancouver, Canada, reported success in using dogs to sniff out patients with Clostridium difficile, Toronto researchers want to know whether canines can detect the dangerous infection in hospitals, STAT reports.

While the earlier infection control teams in the Netherlands and Vancouver saw success with dogs finding patients with C. diff, the journal reports were based only on how a single trained dog performed. But results from one dog failed to address how reliable dogs are at this work in general.

The new research, published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, however, found problems when comparing how two dogs detected C. diff. in a study at Toronto-based Michael Garron Hospital.

During the study, although the dogs were good at finding C. diff stool specimens and ignoring specimens without the bacteria, they sometimes missed samples containing C. diff and mistook some negative samples as positive.

But what the researchers found more problematic was the dogs didn't make the same mistakes.

They were also often distracted by food on patient beds and water from toilets.

Dr. Marije Bomers, infectious diseases specialist and lead author of the Netherlands study that trained a single dog, said the Toronto research shows some dogs are better than others at sniffing work.

"This study further illustrates that the capability of one dog cannot simply be extrapolated to other dogs, complicating practical implementation of C. diff sniffer dogs on a larger scale," Dr. Bomers said.

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