Is the C. diff you sniff? Good dog!

It’s no secret that the canine sense of smell is much more sensitive than our own. Now researchers in the Netherlands have shown how that sensitivity can be applied to identification and diagnosis of Clostridium difficile with remarkable accuracy. More importantly, implementing a canine-based monitoring system for early detection could help control the spread of the infection.

The research paper in the British Medical Journal, Using a dog’s superior olfactory sensitivity to identify Clostridium difficile in stools and patients: proof of principle study, describes how a 2-year-old beagle was trained to differentiate known C. diff-infected stool samples from controls. Further, the researchers trained the dog to sit or lie down when C. diff was detected.

The dog’s accuracy was very impressive: sensitivity and specificity were both 100% using samples in the lab. On detection rounds, he correctly identified 25 of the 30 known cases, and 265 of the 270 controls. The paper estimates that most cases of C. diff take 2-7 days to diagnose and start treatment, and suggest that a regular program of canine detection rounds could lead to earlier detection and treatment.

Looking forward to seeing how else you can help, Dr. Dawg.