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Beagle trained to sniff out C. diff bacteria at Greenville hospital

Posted January 23, 2020 12:03 p.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2020 12:07 p.m. EST

— Harley, a 2-year-old beagle, brings smiles to patients and staff at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville -- but her other job is even more important.

Harley is trained to sniff out Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff. C. diff is spread when people touch a surface contaminated with human waste. The bacteria is common in hospitals and other care settings, including nursing homes.

An estimated 500,000 C. diff infections occur in the United States each year, according to the CDC. 12,800 people died from the infection in 2017.

Complications of C. diff include dehydration, colitis and severe diarrhea. Most cases impact people 65 and older.

Beagle trained to sniff out C. diff bacteria at Greenville hospital

Dr. Paul Cook, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, accompanies Harley on her hospital runs.

The pup sniffs out C. diff spores in hospital rooms and hallways and will sit on spots where she detects the bacteria so that area can be re-cleaned with bleach.

Harley has never steered Cook wrong.

Beagle trained to sniff out C. diff bacteria at Greenville hospital

“We have tested her with about 50 different clinical stool specimens, both positive and negative," Cook said. "She has never sat down on a known negative specimen,” said Cook.

Vidant Medical Center believes Harley to be one of only a few dogs in the U.S. trained to sniff out C. diff in a hopsital setting.

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