UK & World News

  • 14 December 2012, 11:26

Sniffer Dogs Detect Superbugs In Hospitals

Dogs can sniff out potentially fatal hospital superbugs, researchers have suggested.

Trained dogs are said to be able to accurately smell infections in the air surrounding a patient's bed and in stool samples.

The Dutch researchers suggested the animals could be used to screen wards for Clostridium difficile, the most commonly diagnosed bacterial cause of infectious hospital-acquired diarrhoea in developed countries.

A two-year-old male beagle called Cliff's sniffer skills were tested on 50 infected stool samples and 50 normal samples.

The dog correctly identified all 50 positive samples and 47 out of 50 negative samples, taking just 10 minutes to detect the presence of C.diff in patients.

"The dog's diagnostic accuracy with stool samples suggests that immediate identification of C.difficile is possible," the researchers wrote.

"For the purposes of detection, the dog did not need a stool sample or physical contact with patients. It would seem dogs can detect C.difficile in the air surrounding patients," they added.

The researchers admitted the study, which was published in the online journal bmj.com, has some limitations and said using a dog as a diagnostic tool is not "fully predictable".

Studies are still in their infancy, but these findings show potential for new directions in medical treatment.

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