Beagles are known as good hunters. So why not send them in search of deadly bacteria?
That’s what Dutch doctors are hoping to do by training the dogs’ famously sensitive sense of smell to sniff out deadly pathogens that plague hospitals and put patients at risk.
Doctors spent two months training a 2-year-old beagle named Cliff to learn to lie down or sit whenever he smelled the presence of Clostridium difficile, stubborn bacteria that cause severe, hard-to-treat diarrhea and sometimes life-threatening colitis.
Cases of C. difficile have reached historical highs in recent years, claiming 14,000 lives in the U.S. each year, primarily in hospital or long-term care settings.
Reporting in the BMJ, the researchers say the hound accurately detected C. difficile in nearly all of 50 stool samples and accurately did not respond to another 50 samples that were negative for the bacteria.