Dogs are recognised to have the keenest of noses and have been used for detecting illicit drugs, early stage cancer and even C. difficile including an outbreak (possibly a cheaper option than PCR for screening – I should have used this in my debate with Jon). Now a new study finds that trained dogs can reliably detect significant bacteriuria.
In this double-blinded, case control study Dogs detected urine samples positive for 100 000 colony-forming units/mL Escherichia coli with 99.6% sensitivity and 91.5% specificity. Very similar results were obtained for Enterococci, Klebsiellae, and Staph aureus. Interestingly most of the specimens came from females and it would be interesting to see if there were any differences there. Trained Labradors and Golden Retrievers were used and the dogs were trained for 8 weeks using rewards for correct detection.
Now I’m not a fan of dogs (my partner has one) but even I can see that they can be useful sometimes. How this would fit into clinical practice I’m not sure however it would be interesting to see how someone would get on if they submitted this as an idea to the Longitude Prize. Quick, cheap method of detecting significant bacteriuria that could be used for assistance dogs? The authors suggest that training for pneumonia detection from breath might be possible, which would certainly help all of those double-blind studies (also known as Orthopaedic Surgeons looking at a chest X-Ray).