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Trained sniffer dogs can smell Clostridium difficile in the air surrounding a patient's bed with a high degree of accuracy, a study found. They can also smell the infection in stool samples.
The Dutch researchers suggest that trained animals could screen hospital wards to prevent C diff outbreaks. They trained a two-year-old male beagle called Cliff to identify the infection.
After two months of training, Cliff's detection abilities were tested on 50 stool samples from infected patients and 50 normal samples. He correctly identified all 50 positive samples and 47 out of 50 negative samples.
He was also tested in a hospital setting - and identified 25 out of 30 infected patients and 265 out of 270 patients who did not carry the infection. Screening took just 10 minutes to detect the presence of C diff in patients on the ward.
"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. In addition, dogs are quick and efficient: patients in a hospital ward can be screened for the presence of C difficile infection in less than 10 minutes."
After suffering an unusually severe epileptic fit, Nathan Cooper came within a whisker of death – but was saved by his cat Lilly.
For Lilly is also a highly sensitive medical early warning system.
She can detect the fits her 19-year-old owner suffers on a weekly basis before they happen, and alert the college student’s parents.
Some dogs have the ability to detect a seizure before it happens. In 1999, British epilepsy specialist Dr. Steven Brown and behavioral scientist and dog trainer reported in the European Journal of Epilepsy that they were able to decipher which dogs would be able to detect a seizure. They worked with the dogs belonging to epileptic patients, and gave the dogs rewards while their owners were having seizures. After a time, certain dogs began to alert the scientists that they expected their treat-- before the seizure had actually started. These dogs had the ability to detect the seizure before it manifested.