Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a potentially deadly bacterium, is a highly contagious form of infectious diarrhoea. So in places like this hospital in Amsterdam, it can spread between wards fast. Normally, analysing suspect stool samples can take up to three days, time enough for the disease to have already gone far and wide. Cliff, on the other hand, knows almost instantly (and with a 90 per cent accuracy record), so the C. diff carrier can be separated from other patients while the lab results are processing.
But before he became the diarrhoea soothsayer you see today, scientists trained Cliff by scattering infected faecal samples around a field and sending him on the worst scavenger hunt of all time. It was worth it, though — even hours after they’ve last used the bathroom, a stroll past patients’ beds is enough to sniff out a potential carrier.
So the next time your job starts getting you down, take solace in the fact that your entire livelihood isn’t based around smelling other people’s infected faeces.