1099: Degenerate PCR for Detection of Viral, Bacterial, and Rickettsial Genera in Pugs and Maltese Dogs with Necrotizing and Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis

Grant Status: Closed

Grant Amount: $67,612.5
Scott J Schatzberg, DVM, PhD; University of Georgia
January 1, 2009 - December 31, 2010

Sponsor(s): American Boxer Charitable Foundation

Breed(s): Maltese, Pug
Research Program Area: Neurology
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Project Summary

The work at UGA-CVM is focused on studying the molecular basis and potential factors that contribute to the pathogenesis of necrotizing (NME) and granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) in pug and maltese dogs. The hypothesis is that these problems of brain inflammation result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In this investigation funded by AKC-CHF, the investigators have evaluated neural tissues (brains and spinal fluid) for nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) for pathogens (environmental factors) that might be associated with brain inflammation in these breeds. To date, they have screened brains and CSF samples from many confirmed cases of GME and NME. The proposed methods utilized a technique called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which has inherent limitations. However, we have shown that dogs with pug and maltese encephalitis are PCR negative for many families of viruses. This is an important step. Since the grant was funded, we have entered a collaboration with a leading laboratory that utilizes extremely broadly reactive viral detection methods and we have now screened 12 cases of pug and maltese encephalitis with these novel methodologies. Excitingly, this data has shown an important difference between the "DNA signatures" between the encephalitis and normal brains, suggesting that herpesviruses may be present in the affected dogs. Further work is needed to validate this data and is ongoing in the Schatzberg laboratory. Finally, it is noteworthy that we previously demonstrated a lack of DNA from pathogens that are transmitted by ticks (including rocky mountain spotted fever, lyme disease, and others). During a traditional encephalitis work-up, we screen for these pathogens. Knowing that these pathogens are not involved in pug and maltese encephalitis allows the pet owners to put their resources into other diagnostic tests and treatments.


Barber, R. M., Li, Q., Diniz, P. P. V. P., Porter, B. F., Breitschwerdt, E. B., Claiborne, M. K., … Schatzberg, S. J. (2010). Evaluation of Brain Tissue or Cerebrospinal Fluid with Broadly Reactive Polymerase Chain Reaction for Ehrlichia, Anaplasma , Spotted Fever Group Rickettsia, Bartonella, and Borrelia Species in Canine Neurological Diseases (109 Cases). Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 24(2), 372–378. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2009.0466.x
Nghiem, P. P., & Schatzberg, S. J. (2010). Conventional and molecular diagnostic testing for the acute neurologic patient. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 20(1), 46–61. https://doi.org/doi:10.1111/j.1476-4431.2009.00495.x
Schatzberg, S. J., Li, Q., Porter, B. F., Barber, R. M., Claiborne, M. K., Levine, J. M., … Tong, S. (2009). Broadly Reactive Pan-Paramyxovirus Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction and Sequence Analysis for the Detection of Canine Distemper Virus in a Case of Canine Meningoencephalitis of Unknown Etiology. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 21(6), 844–849. https://doi.org/10.1177/104063870902100613
Talarico, L. R., & Schatzberg, S. J. (2010). Idiopathic granulomatous and necrotising inflammatory disorders of the canine central nervous system: A review and future perspectives. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 51(3), 138–149. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-5827.2009.00823.x

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