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Dogs Strong Sense of Smell Can Detect Urinary Tract Infections

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Maureen Maurer, MS 
American Institute for Research
Makawao, HI  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Complications from UTIs are a serious medical problem for many people with neurological impairment such as spinal cord injuries. Detection is often difficult in these patients, resulting in delayed diagnosis and more serious infections such as pyelonephritis and sepsis.  UTIs are also the most common hospital acquired infection for all patients. Given the prevalence of UTIs, their complications, and increasing drug therapy resistance, improved early detection methods are needed.

The olfactory acuity of dogs is over 100,000 times stronger than humans. Dogs’ superior olfactory capabilities have been employed to assist humans by detecting bombs, drugs, and more recently, cancer. Trained dogs may present a novel method for early UTI detection. Our objective was to determine whether canines could be trained to discriminate culture-positive from culture-negative urine samples. 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Canine Scent detection is an accurate and feasible method for detecting bacteriuria. In double-blinded conditions, five dogs detected urine samples positive for E. coli with sensitivity of 99.6%, and specificity of 91.5%. Dilution of E. Coli-infected urine with distilled water did not affect accuracy, at either 1.0% or 0.1%. Diagnostic accuracy of UTI was similar in samples positive for Enterococcus, Klebsiella, and Staphylococcus aureus.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Dogs’ ability to detect UTIs suggests the feasibility of using canine scent detection to identify other types of infections. For example, dogs may be trained to identify bacterial pneumonia through breath samples. It also may be possible for dogs to differentiate between different types of bacteria, but that was beyond the scope of our study.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This work may help reduce the incidence of resistant infections in individuals with recurrent UTIs, through reduced requirement of cumulative treatment with antibiotics.

Our results suggest that medical equipment could be designed to provide early detection of bacterial infections, similar to the “electronic noses” recently developed to detect cancer.

We are currently training Service Dogs to provide early detection of infections in their partners with frequent UTIs and are also training dogs to detect infections in hospitalized patients. The results so far are very promising. 

Citation:

Detection of Bacteriuria by Canine Olfaction

Open Forum Infect Dis first published online March 8, 2016 doi:10.1093/ofid/ofw051
Maureen Maurer, Michael McCulloch, Angel M. Willey, Wendi Hirsch,and Danielle Dewey

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Maureen Maurer, MS (2016). Dogs Strong Sense of Smell Can Detect Urinary Tract Infections MedicalResearch.com