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Sniffing out superbugs

December 17, 2012

LONDON — A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), conducted by investigators at two large hospitals in The Netherlands, shows that a trained dog was able to detect Clostridium difficile (C. diff) with high estimated sensitivity and specificity, both in stool samples and in hospital patients infected with C. diff, according to a press release.

beagle1A two-year-old beagle, who was trained to identify the smell of C. diff, was tested on 300 patients, 30 of whom had a C. diff infection and 270 of whom were controls, the release stated.

According to the release, the dog was guided along the wards by its trainer, who was blinded to the participants' infection status; each detection round concerned 10 patients — one case and nine controls — and the dog was trained to sit or lie down when C. diff was detected.

The dog's sensitivity and specificity for identifying C. diff in stool samples were both 100 percent (95 percent confidence interval 91 percent to 100 percent); during the detection rounds, the dog correctly identified 25 of the 30 cases (sensitivity 83 percent, 65 percent to 94 percent) and 265 of the 270 controls, specificity 98 percent, 95 percent to 99 percent, the release noted.

Click here to read the release in its entirety.