Super nose for superbugs: Canadian hospital hires C. diff-sniffing dog

On four legs and covered in fur, Angus isn't the typical hospital employee. But the two-year-old English springer spaniel is working at Vancouver General Hospital in Canada to stop the spread of Clostridium difficile.

Angus has been trained to detect reservoirs of C. diff. He started working at the Vancouver hospital this month.

"We're thrilled to have Angus join our infection fighting team in the battle against C. diff," said Elizabeth Bryce, MD, regional medical director of infection control for Vancouver Coastal Health.

Dr. Bryce told the Vancouver Sun Angus can find reservoirs of C. diff in areas like unoccupied rooms, bathrooms and hallways. When he finds an area with C. diff, he is trained to sit and tap the area with his paw. Then, infection control team can do more cleaning, even using ultraviolet light disinfecting robots to kill C. diff spores.

Angus is owned by Teresa and Markus Zurberg. Mr. Zurberg is a quality and patient safety coordinator with Vancouver Coastal Health, and Ms. Zurberg is a certified trainer of bomb- and drug-detecting dogs.

Angus is not the first dog in history with C. diff-sniffing capabilities. That title goes to Cliff, a beagle in the Netherlands. A study published in 2012 in The BMJ detailed Cliff's capabilities — he was able to detect C. diff "with high estimated sensitivity and specificity, both in stool samples and in hospital patients," the study concluded.

As for the unconventional hire, there were "no naysayers" at the Vancouver hospital, Dr. Bryce told the Vancouver Sun.

"We strive to continue to find ways to provide better care, and sometimes the answer is not more technology, but instead, man's best friend," said Health Minister Terry Lake.

Keep up with Angus on his Facebook page.

More articles on C. diff:
Normally harmful cells prove helpful in fighting C. diff, shed light on antibiotic use for HAIs
Is your hospital relying too heavily on sporicidal disinfectant to fight C. diff?
C. diff linked with poor outcomes for ulcerative colitis patients 

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