Cliff: The Bacteria-Sniffing Beagle

Beagles have always been good hunters because of their incredible ability to sniff out their target. So, while looking for a solution to what’s becoming a huge problem in hospitals and long-term care settings, Dutch doctors trained a bery special 2-year old Beagle to seek out certain deadly bacteria.

Clostridium difficile, a resistant bacteria that causes severe, hard-to-treat diarrhea and sometimes life-threatening colitis, has become an all-too-common problem for the medical community, claiming the lives of about 14,000 people in the United States each year, while they’re being treated for another ailment in a hospital setting.

After only two months of training, doctor’s successfully trained Cliff, a 2-year old Beagle, to sit or lie down when he smelled the presence of the lethal pathogen.

In a study, reported by the BMJ Group, researchers tested Cliff’s ability to accurately detect C. difficile in both stool samples and in hospital patients. Using 100 stool samples, 50 positive and 50 that were negative for the bacteria, Cliff was able to, with almost 100% accuracy, properly identify the infected samples.

Because of his extreme level of accuracy, researchers then tested his ability to seek out the bacteria in living patients. Though slightly less accurate, Cliff was able to detect 25 of the 30 patients that were infected with the bacteria, and 265 of the 270 patients that were not. The results were astounding, especially considering that, as a diagnostic tool, the process is both completely non-invasive and provides an instant diagnosis.

Previous testing for the bacteria in patients requires culturing suspected cells and waiting for the pathogen to grow. This process is both invasive and takes up to several days, leaving room for the infected patient to pass the bacteria on to others.

In the video below, watch as Cliff diagnoses a patient infected with C. difficile:

 

 

Not surprisingly, using dogs in hospital settings is nothing new. Many hospitals allow service dogs to visit and comfort sick patients, while others still are used to sniff out diabetes, detect when a seizure is about to occur in an epileptic patient, and even to sniff out certain cancers.

With a specially trained Beagle like Cliff on their staff, hospitals and extended-care centers have a vastly improved chance of eradicating certain highly contagious pathogens that take the lives of thousands of patients each year.

Instead of training Beagles to potentially save lives, or just allowing them to live full, happy lives, researchers around the globe are using the gentle, loyal, and eager-to-please breed for laboratory testing and experimentation. Tens of thousands of these special dogs are tortured and killed in research labs every year, subjected to consumer product testing. Most of these dogs die without ever feeling a loving human touch, feeling the sunshine on their backs, or the grass between their toes.

For more information, or to see how you can help, visit www.BeagleFreedomProject.org.


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