GREENVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) — A North Carolina dog has a very unique job.

Harley the beagle visits cancer patients at Vidant Hospital in Greenville twice a week to check patients’ rooms for Clostridioides difficile, a potentially life-threatening bacteria. It’s common in healthcare settings and can cause severe diarrhea, colitis and other complications, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Paul Cook, a physician at East Carolina University, told ABC-affiliate WCTI he and Harley hope to eradicate the bacterium leaving a safe and sterile environment for patients.

Harley is assigned to sniff out C. diff in room and signal when she detects spores. That area is then re-cleaned with bleach.

“We have tested her with about 50 different clinical stool specimens, both positive and negative. She has never sat down on a known negative specimen,” Cook said.

Vidant Medical Center is already ranked among the top quartile in the prevention of infection.

“Every hospital has C. diff cases but our rates are half of what the national average is,” Cook said. “And I think is part of that because of Harley? I don’t know but I would like to think so.”
Medical experts describe Harley as an innovative approach in its relentless pursuit of improving patient outcomes.

“Finding creative solutions to challenging problems is an important part of our mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina,” said Brian Floyd, president of Vidant Medical Center. “As an academic medical center, we are uniquely positioned to drive innovation alongside our partner, ECU. We are hopeful that this approach to identifying C. diff will provide a lasting solution and we are happy to support Dr. Cook, Harley and her owners as we collaboratively work toward this goal.”

Cook said Harley may be the only dog in the country with her particularly trained nose.

Keith Pittman, who trained Harley for eight months, said he is training other dogs to carry out this life-saving work.