700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections. 

We are determined to help tackle the problem of bacterial infections.

Most bacteria are harmless, and can in fact be beneficial to our health. However, some are extremely harmful with the potential to cause a number of serious diseases, which can be fatal. Existing tests can take several days, resulting in both a deterioration in health and an over use of antibiotics.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies has said that antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat to our health. 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections (so-called ‘super bugs’). It is predicted this figure will rise to 10 million by 2050. Hospital acquired infections are also a significant risk to human health as well as a major cost to the NHS.

Our work

Working with Imperial College London we are training dogs to detect the odour of specific bacteria.

Preliminary testing indicates a very high level of accuracy, with dogs able to reliably ignore other ‘control’ bacteria and commonly used antibiotics. With their amazing sense of smell dogs are able to detect the presence of very low numbers of bacteria. 

We are working closely with our collaborators on progressing this study to the next stage, testing the potential of the dogs to detect bacteria in samples from patients.

The future

From the rapid detection of specific bacteria in clinical samples taken from a patient, to search dogs able to screen large areas such as hospital wards for the presence of a ‘super bug’, the opportunities are endless. There is potential to save time, money and most importantly lives.

We can see a future where our bio-detection research could result in an assistance dog that is able to detect the early signs of a urinary tract infection in a patient who has a spinal cord injury. Such infections can rapidly become life threatening in people with this type of injury, and swift detection and treatment can make a significant impact on their morbidity.

A hospital detection dog could be a reality, quickly and efficiently detecting the presence in wards and clinical areas of dangerous bacterial infections such as  C. difficile or MRSA. Early work by researchers in Canada demonstrated that this concept is both feasible and acceptable and we hope to trial this in a care setting soon.

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