Sniffing out Sickness: Local dog helps ECU, Vidant Health detect bacteria


WHAT: Harley the beagle, possibly the only dog in the U.S. currently working in a hospital to detect C. diff, a bacteria that can cause illness, will be joined by her trainers, ECU’s Dr. Paul Cook and Vidant Medical Center President Brian Floyd for a demonstration of her special talent.

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22

WHERE: Media are asked to meet in the lobby of Vidant Cancer Care at the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower, 524 Moye Blvd., Greenville, NC 27834

Contact: Spaine Stephens, ECU Health Sciences Communications,, 252-744-3808

Harley the beagle refused to run rabbits—a character flaw that left her future uncertain.

Now, the wayward hunting dog has finally found a worthy prey—but not of the woodland variety.

Harley visits Vidant Medical Center in Greenville twice a week to sniff out Clostridioides difficile, more commonly known as C. diff, a bacterium common in health-care settings that can cause severe diarrhea, colitis and other complications.

The 2-year-old dog partners with Dr. Paul Cook, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University to identify and eradicate the bacterium. With the support of Vidant Health, the team is going a step further to eradicate the threat of C. diff in the hospital and ensure that patient treatment areas are as safe and sterile as possible.

Harley is assigned to sniff for C. diff spores in rooms, in hallways and on equipment. When she detects the spores, she sits—signaling that she has pinpointed their location, which is then re-cleaned with a bleach agent.

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