Angus is our newest weapon in the fight against Clostridium difficile (C. diff), the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitals and long-term care facilities. C. diff can have devastating effects on patients, especially those with compromised immune systems such as seniors and people fighting cancer.
The impact of a C. diff infection is all too familiar to Teresa Zurberg, Angus’ trainer, who became seriously ill with the bacteria a little over a year ago. After fighting the bacteria for a week in hospital and losing more than 20 pounds, Teresa needed to do something to prevent C. diff so others wouldn’t have to suffer. She wondered if her expertise as a dog scent trainer could help.
Last year, Teresa and her husband Markus Zurberg, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Quality & Patient Safety Coordinator, approached VCH's infection control team to see if their talented and beloved 10-month old English springer spaniel Angus could join in the battle against C. diff. VCH’s infection control team jumped at the opportunity and an innovative pilot was born.
”It’s those out there ideas where you have the opportunity for really profound changes and that’s what VCH is about, celebrating innovation,” Dr. Liz Bryce, Regional Medical Director, Infection Control/Medical Microbiologist.
Angus is being trained to quickly sniff out C. diff in areas of the hospital that would otherwise go unnoticed to the naked eye. “Scent to a dog is like colour to us. They see various different shades and intensities.” says Teresa.
Once Angus detects C. diff, he’ll sit and be rewarded with his favorite yellow squeaky toy. Rooms where C. diff has been detected will be cleaned with a state-of-the-art UV light disinfecting robot that removes more than 99.9% of C. diff spores.
Angus can cover large areas of the hospital in short periods of time. His friendly nature and the smaller size of his breed make him a good fit for the hospital environment. Angus’ dashing looks don’t hurt either!
Angus joins the ranks of many working dogs used to sniff out cancers, contraband and bombs. If his training is successful, he’ll be one of only two dogs in the world who can sniff out C. diff. His buddy is a C. diff sniffing Beagle in Amsterdam.
Watch his story on Global, CBC and read about it in the Globe and Mail, February 26, 2015.