We go to the hospital to get well, not to get sicker. But some of the country’s leading medical institutions are losing the battle to protect patients from drug-resistant bacteria.
Angus is the first dog who has been taught to track down the most common kind of superbug called Clostridium difficile or C.diff. This is a bacterium which forms spores so it can remain in the environment for long periods. It is highly contagious and can be deadly, causing half a million infections a year and killing 15,000 people.
These superbugs cost the health care industry about $5 billion a year.
It is invisible to the eye, but Angus can smell it as he goes about his job at Vancouver General Hospital in a pilot project.
Although it will always be present in a hospital, the goal is to control it. When Angus alerts on an area, the staff does additional targeted cleaning coupled with ultra-violet disinfection machines.
Angus‘ trainer, Teresa Zurburg, had been training bomb and drug dogs when she contracted C.diff three years ago and nearly died. Her husband, a nurse, suggested she train a dog to detect the superbug.
Angus was trained by using scent pads that contained the scent of C.diff without the actual bacterium.
Humans may be able to smell a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee, but dogs can detect a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic size pool.
There seems to be no end to what a dog can detect with their remarkable noses. As Zurberg says, "If it's got an odor I can train a dog to find it."
From CBS News