up arrow Paging Dr. Cliff


DrCliffLast week we wrote about Migaloo, a Australian canine archaeologist  She was taught to sniff out ancient bones so that paleontologists can better understand the peopling of Australia. Today we learn of a dog that was enlisted in the fight against infectious disease.

Meet Cliff, a two year old Beagle from the Netherlands. Dutch doctors recruited him in the fight against Clostridium difficile.

That bacteria is routinely referred to as “C. diff” and it is a scourge of hospitals world wide. The bacteria forms heat-resistant spores that are insusceptible to alcohol based hand cleansers and routine cleaning. In the US alone, 14,000 people die each year from exposure to C. diff. Thousands more suffer from its symptoms.

Paging Dr. Cliff.

Doctors spent several months training Cliff to lie down or sit whenever he smelled C. diff. The results were pretty astounding. In a controlled experiment Dr. Cliff was taken on ten trips through a hospital where he was exposed to patients who carried the infection and patients that did not. Cliff’s handlers were not told who was infected. The canine investigator was able to identify the presence of C. diff 83% of the time.

The results were published in the British Journal of Medicine.