Here is an article published in the British Medical Journal on a novel 'pet scan', using trained dogs to sniff out C.difficile in stool samples and in hospitalized patients.
Dutch investigators assessed the sensitivity and specificity for detection of C difficile in stool samples and in patients by a trained, 2 year old beagle.
The dog’s sensitivity and specificity for identifying C difficile in stool samples were both 100% (95% confidence interval 91% to 100%). During the detection rounds, the dog correctly identified 25 of the 30 cases (sensitivity 83%, 65% to 94%) and 265 of the 270 controls (specificity 98%, 95% to 99%)
Impressive, but how would this benefit hospital infection prevention efforts? Early diagnosis of C.difficile infection may lead to prompt isolation and treatment, however, this may not impact cross transmission within the hospital environment. Significant uncertainties such as these must be answered by clinical studies before dogs are routinely employed as an infection prevention strategy.
At the very least, C.difficile sniffing dogs would give new meaning to the term Dogs on Call.