Maui service dogs being trained to detect infections in humans

Research is underway involving clinical lab samples and dogs.

Five assistance dogs on Maui are part of a study to determine how accurate the dog’s sense of smell is.

Assistance Dogs of Hawaii has trained more than 100 dogs to help people with disabilities, many of them are in wheelchairs.

“Complications from bladder and kidney infections are the leading cause of death for many people with disabilities,” Assistance Dogs of Hawaii Co-Founder Mo Maurer said.

Often wheelchair-bound clients say they can’t feel or sense the signs of infection.

“People are hospitalized and it can be life threatening,” Maurer said.

So Assistance Dogs of Hawaii began a year-long study to determine if service dogs could be trained to alert their partners of infection by analyzing samples of E. coli and staph.

“It’s interesting that dogs can detect one part per trillion. That’s the equivalent of one drop of water into an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

So far, they’ve had a 100 percent success rate.

Partnered with researchers from Hawaii and abroad who specialize in canine cancer detection, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii is conducting double-blind clinical studies, testing the dogs 40 times a day.

Sample vials are placed in a white box and the dogs use their noses to detect the infected box. When they find it, they will notify their trainer and sit down next to it.

Assistance Dogs of Hawaii says that by doing this research, their goal is to ultimately continue to help those with disabilities in Hawaii and save lives.

“They will tell the dog to check. So say when they are emptying their catheter they can give the dog a command like check and if there is E. coli present the dog can sit,” Maurer said.

The Makana Aloha Foundation is partially funding the research and the results will be published in clinical journals.

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