Tick-Borne Disease Initiative Grants


Tick‐Borne Disease Research Program Area

In 2016, The AKC Canine Health Foundation launched the Tick-Borne Disease Initiative which aims to educate dog owners and find better diagnostics, preventatives and therapeutics for dogs. Learn more about the Initiative and access our free educational resources today.

02284‐A: Lyme Disease in Dogs: Prevalence, Clinical Illness, and Prognosis

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jason Stull, VMD, PhD; Ohio State University

Total Grant Amount: $14,148; Grant Period: 7/1/2016 ‐ 6/30/2018

Lyme disease (or Borreliosis) is a bacterial disease of dogs and humans that is transmitted by tick bites. In people, Lyme is the most common tick‐transmitted disease in the US, with over 25,000 cases in 2014. While most common in the northeastern coastal states and the upper Midwest, Lyme disease is moving into other regions of the U.S. and Canada. Dogs infected with Lyme disease rarely show signs of illness(typically lameness), but can be severe (e.g., kidney disease). Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Lyme disease in dogs are complicated by limited research and conflicting professional guidance. Currentpractices may unnecessarily place dogs at risk for illness and negative outcomes.

The investigators will follow a large group of dogs from different regions of the U.S. and Canada. During this period the investigators will determine how often healthy dogs test positive for Lyme disease (meaning they have been bitten by an infected tick) and identify how often they later develop a Lymerelatedillness. The risks and benefits of management strategies for Lyme‐positive dogs and obstacles to effective tick prevention will be determined to help clarify unmet pet owner education needs. These findings are likely to extend to better understanding of canine and human Lyme disease, and improve health outcomes. Collectively, this work will allow us to identify, define and improve upon best practices for prevention and control of Lyme disease in areas with different Lyme risks, ultimately improving the health of dogs and people.

02285‐A: Thrombocytopenia and Occult Vector‐Borne Disease in Greyhound Dogs: Implications for Clinical Cases and Blood Donors

Principal Investigator: Dr. Linda Kidd, DVM, PhD; Western University of Health Sciences

Total Grant Amount: $12,960; Grant Period: 7/1/2016 ‐ 6/30/2017

Retired racing Greyhounds (RRG) are popular pets, and also commonly serve as blood donors to treat alltypes of dogs. Not all Greyhounds are RRG; show‐bred Greyhounds (SBG) have traceable pedigrees verifying they do not descend from racing lines. Low platelet (thrombocytopenia) and white blood cell counts are considered normal findings in Greyhounds. Protein in the urine is common. Because these findings can also be caused by infection with vector‐borne disease agents, Greyhounds can present clinicians with a diagnostic dilemma. Whether these laboratory results are found with the same frequency in RRG and SBG has not been investigated. Racing Greyhounds are commonly exposed to the brown dog tick, which transmits many agents that can cause disease. Vector‐borne diseases are also transmitted by the lone star tick, also common in the region of the U.S. where racing farms are located. Because these pathogens can cause chronic, clinically silent infection, the investigators hypothesize that infection occurs in, and contributes to blood and urine abnormalities in some healthy‐appearing RRG. This study will compare the prevalence of vector‐borne diseases in RRG and SBG, determine whether thrombocytopenia, low white blood cell counts and protein in the urine are associated with vectorborne disease in RRG, and whether blood and urine abnormalities occur with the same frequency in RRG and SBG. The results will help veterinarians decide when to pursue infectious disease testing, and whether more aggressive infectious disease screening for both pet and blood donor Greyhounds is warranted based on lineage.

02287: Enhanced Testing for the Diagnosis of Bartonellosis in Dogs

Principal Investigator: Dr. Edward B Breitschwerdt, DVM; North Carolina State University

Total Grant Amount: $103,013; Grant Period: 8/1/2016 ‐ 7/31/2017

Bartonellosis, a zoonotic bacterial disease of worldwide distribution, is caused by approximately 10 different Bartonella species. Bartonella are transmitted to canines and humans by ticks, fleas, lice, mites, and sand flies. Dr. Breitschwerdt’s laboratory demonstrated the first evidence for Bartonella infections in dogs in 1993. Bartonella species have been associated with an expanding spectrum of important disease manifestations including anemia, endocarditis, hepatitis, lymphadenitis, myocarditis, thrombocytopenia and vascular tumor‐like lesions. Infections can be life‐threatening. Due to a lack of sensitive and reliable diagnostic assays, definitive diagnosis of bartonellosis in dogs remains a significant problem. Because these bacteria invade cells and infect tissues throughout the body, this chronic intracellular infection is difficult to cure with currently used antibiotic regimens. This study will develop improved serodiagnostic tests for bartonellosis in dogs. These assays can also be used for world‐wide sero‐epidemiological prevalence studies, and to establish early and accurate diagnosis. Dr. Breitschwerdt’s research group has described concurrent infection in dogs, their owners and veterinary workers; this allows for a One Health approach to this important emerging infectious disease.

02292: Broad‐Range Detection of Canine Tick‐Borne Disease and Improved Diagnostics Using Next‐Generation Sequencing

Principal Investigator: Dr. Pedro Paul Diniz, DVM, PhD; Western University of Health Sciences

Total Grant Amount: $60,717; Grant Period: 9/1/2016 ‐ 8/31/2017

Diagnostic tests based on the detection of DNA of infectious organisms from clinical samples have revolutionized veterinary medicine in the last decades. Currently, diagnostic panels for several vectorborne organisms are available through universities and private laboratories in the USA and abroad. However, the vast majority of results from clinically ill dogs are negative for tick‐borne diseases, which frustrates veterinarians and dog owners trying to reach a definitive diagnosis and improve treatment options. These panels are based on the detection of previously known DNA sequences of each pathogen, with little room for detecting new organisms. Consequently, the current assays may suffer from "myopia": a self‐fulfilling effect that prevents the detection of new or emerging organisms. Using an innovative approach, the investigators will employ next‐generation sequencing (NGS) to overcome the limitations of current diagnostic technology. With NGS, the investigators can generate millions of individual gene sequencing reads from each clinical sample, allowing for the identification and characterization of multiple organisms from a single sample. Testing samples from dogs naturally exposed to tick‐borne diseases, NGS will detect not only new organisms but also characterize genetic differences among known organisms. The resulting dataset of a large number of DNA sequences of known tick‐borne organisms and previously undetected organisms in naturally‐infected dogs will support the development of diagnostic tools to simultaneously advance canine and human health.

02295‐A: The Role of Lymphocytes in Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis

Principal Investigator: Dr. Mary Anna Anna Thrall, DVM, MS; Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

Total Grant Amount: $15,000; Grant Period: 7/1/2016 ‐ 6/30/2017

Canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME) is a serious disease of dogs, caused by the intracellular bacteria Ehrlichia canis that is transmitted by a tick bite. There is no vaccine for CME, and the pathophysiology of why the disease is more serious in some dogs is not understood. CME is very common in St. Kitts, home to Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. The large numbers of affected dogs are a valuable resource for studies of this important disease. Lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) appear to be related to the pathophysiology of CME. The investigators will study the types of lymphocytes present in dogs with both mild and severe disease and compare them to non‐affected dogs. Lymphocytes will be identified by type as B or T cells using antibody markers for lymphocytes and flow cytometry. The investigators will determine if an increase in lymphocyte counts (lymphocytosis) is associated with severity of disease, and whether clonality (having a large number of the exact same type of lymphocyte) is associated with severity of disease. Fifty Ehrlichia‐positive dogs admitted to Ross University will be evaluated for their number of lymphocytes by blood cell counts, by flow cytometry to determine their lymphocyte subsets, and by PCR and antibody testing for the presence of tick‐borne disease. These dogs will be compared to healthy control dogs. The researchers will also evaluate 50 dogs presenting with persistent lymphocytosis and determine the percentage of those dogs that are Ehrlichia positive. The findings of this study will advance understanding of the pathophysiology and diagnosis of ehrlichiosis and lymphocytosis.

Support the Tick-Borne Disease Initiative with a donation today!

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