Angus, a three-year-old English springer spaniel with a talent for C. difficile spores in hospitals, with his trainer Teresa Zurberg. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Canine has a nose for detecting infectious C. difficile

Angus, an English springer spaniel, displays hospital sniffing talents to IH staff

Vancouver Coastal Health’s four-legged infection fighter made a road-trip to Kelowna on Monday to showcase his C. difficile detection abilities.

Angus, a three-year-old English springer spaniel displayed his talents Monday in the lecture theatre at Kelowna General Hospital’s clinic academic campus, finding a piece of scented gauze with C. difficile spore odour hidden under a chair by his trainer Teresa Zurberg.

Angus uses his ultra-sensitive detection device—his nose—to seek out C. difficile spores in the hospital environment. Angus will search common and clinical areas and patient units when patients are not present.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise with our health care colleagues across the province,” said Teresa Zurberg.

“Since Angus started working at Vancouver General Hospital in 2016, we have learned a tremendous amount about the presence and eradication of C. difficile in health care settings.”

Angus is trained to detect Clostridium difficile or C. difficile, a superbug that attacks people whose immune systems have been weakened by antibiotics.

He and a second dog—Dodger—are part of an infection prevention team that includes an infection control practitioner and housekeeping staff, all dedicated to reducing environmental contamination of C. difficile.

This results in a reduction in the transmission of C. difficile by health care workers, visitors and patients, and, in turn, a decrease in the C. difficile infection rate. The good news—it’s working. The nose clearly knows where to find bacteria.

Vancouver Coastal Health has recorded a significant decrease in the number of hospital acquired C. difficile cases since Angus began sniffing out C. difficile infection at Vancouver General Hospital.

“I know how serious C. difficile can be because I nearly died from it,” said Zurberg. “To know that Angus, and now Dodger, are playing a key role in preventing other people from contracting this potentially life-altering infection is very rewarding.”

Finding reservoirs of C. difficile is crucial to eradicating the superbug. Once the bacterium is detected by Angus or Dodger at VGH, the area or patient room is cleaned, often with a state-of-the-art ultraviolet-C light disinfecting robot that removes 99.9 per cent of the spores.

VGH has three light disinfecting robots, known as “R-D” (Rapid Disinfector).

Since the dogs were let out of the doghouse and into the hospital, VGH has become better at targeting the disinfection to where it is needed the most.

“In the Intensive Care Unit, we work hard to prevent the spread of infection by isolating patients, washing our hands and working with environmental services to keep the unit clean,” said Jackson Lam, VGH patient services manager.

“Having Angus come through the ICU is an innovative and exciting way to discover new places that C. difficile might be lingering on surfaces. That way we can immediately target cleaning and disinfection.”

Vancouver Coastal Health has implemented a number of measures to combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms and has won national and international awards for this innovative work.

It was the first health authority in Canada to utilize ultraviolet light to supplement the disinfection process and the first to tag and barcode clean equipment to ensure routine inspections and maintenance are performed. Vancouver Coastal Health also participates in voluntary as well as mandatory provincial surveillance programs.

There is a downside, however, to having to having two trained C. difficile detection dogs at VGH. “Everyone wants to pet Angus,” said Lam. “We have to respect that he is a working dog and not touch him, as handsome a dog as he is.”

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon road closed again following landslide

The road that was reopened Thursday morning was closed again Friday following geotechnical engineer report.

Update: RDOS to hear update at noon about Keremeos rock slide

The slide occurred Friday March 22, at about 8 p.m. between Red Bridge and Standing Rock

Rock slide forces rural Keremeos residents to leave their homes

Witness describes boulders bigger than her car

BREAKING: Highway 3 near Keremeos closed due to rockslide

Highway 3 just west of Keremeos is closed as of 8:44 p.m.… Continue reading

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: goodbye sun, hello rain

Environement Canada forcasts clouds and rain for the weekend and beyond

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training for

Vernon road closed again following landslide

The road that was reopened Thursday morning was closed again Friday following geotechnical engineer report.

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Kelowna youngsters grab tournament win in U.S.

The Kelowna Storm won the under-8 Shamrock Showdown Hockey Tournament in Spokane

Wildlife activists slam B.C. business, clubs for ‘wolf-whacking’ contests

Chilcotin Guns, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club and West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club under fire

Most Read