Dog Keeps Hospital Patients Safe by Sniffing Out Superbugs

Angus is the first working dog of his kind to be used in hospitals

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Just call him Nurse Angus!

This adorable dog is saving lives and money by sniffing out dangerous superbugs at a Vancouver hospital.

According to CBS News, hospitals are having a hard time protecting patients from drug-resistant bacterias, with the healthcare industry losing about $5 billion a year to these bacteria.

Vancouver General Hospital has found a cute, canine way to combat this problem. Angus the springer spaniel is trained to sniff out a superbug calledClostridium difficile or C. diff, which is the most common superbug to crop up in hospitals.

“C. Difficile is a bacteria. It forms spores so it can persist in our environment for long periods of time,” Elizabeth Bryce of the Vancouver Coastal Health Infection Prevention and Control told CBS.

C. Diff is spread through antibiotic use or contact with contaminated surfaces. The highly contagious superbug infects close to half a million people each year in the United States, with 15,000 of those infections being fatal.

“It will always be present in your hospital, so what you’re trying to do is control it. That’s where Angus comes into play,” Bryce said. “He’s trained to detect C. difficile in the environment. The advantage for us is, if he alerts on something, then what we can do is additional targeted cleaning and we’re going to couple it with our ultra-violet disinfection machines.”

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Angus got started in the superbug sniffing business when his trainer, Teresa Zurberg, contracted C. diff and nearly died. After recovering, she decided to train a dog to sniff out C. diff to help prevent others from going through her struggle.

Three years later, Angus’ sharp nose is a pro at tracking down the superbug and is being put to use in a first-of-its-kind pilot program at the Canadian hospital. The working dog has close to a 100% detection rate and has passed all his exams, which means he will soon be working at the hospital full-time.

“There’s an analogy that we can perhaps smell a teaspoon of sugar in our coffee or tea and he can smell a teaspoon in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. So that’s how exquisitely sensitive they are,” Bryce said about the canine employee.

While Angus is the first superbug-sniffing hospital pup, he likely won’t be the last. His brother Dodger is being trained for the same work, and Zurberg says she is already receiving requests for trained dogs for hospitals all around the world.

“We’re happy to help anybody try and get their own C. Diff dog,” Zurberg said. “What we can use them for, it’s only limited by our imagination.”

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