Paws To People Awards $10K To Lyme Disease Study


PTOP News:

ALBUQUERQUE – What do you say to a research project that will tackle head on a trio of diseases that are escalating in both dogs and humans to better understand their relationships and develop a better diagnostic test?

To a project that will yield results not in decades but in months? One that embodies the essence of translational studies in its ability to benefit animals and humans? If you are the Paws To People Organization, you would say … What are we waiting for – let’s Build A Bridge!

Paws To People Board of Directors awarded $10,000 to fund a new and innovative examination of the incidence, distribution, and possible control of the co-transmission of dog tick fever (Anaplasmosis), canine hemorrhagic fever (Ehrlichia spp.), and Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi). The goal is to develop an improved screening method for diagnosing these diseases in dogs.

The award, Paws To People’s historic first grant, has been made to Jennifer Mendell, Ph.D in microbiology at Bridgewater State University and Kimberly Suh, DVM of Marion Animal Hospital in Massachusetts. Dr. Mendell’s supporting expertise in biochemistry and environmental toxicology provide the ideal skill set to undertake this investigation.

These tick-borne bacterial diseases also afflict humans and are difficult to detect and treat. Currently the Northeast down through Florida and parts of California are experiencing a surge in the incidence of these diseases.

Dr. Mendell explains the importance of her study, “Currently veterinarians are using diagnostic tools that rely on antibody (proteins produced by the host as part of the immune response) antigen (proteins found on the pathogen cell surface) interactions.

“Unfortunately, many of the antibody based diagnostic tools do not accurately diagnose active infections, as antibodies produced in response to these pathogens have been shown to persist for months and even years after initial infection. Additionally, the test for Elrichiosis and for Anaplasmosis is less sensitive; as such, many cases go unreported. Finally, several different species of both Anaplasma and Ehrilichia are known to infect both humans and canines.”

Focusing on data from Southeastern Massachusetts but with world-wide application, the project team will collect ticks and use a PCR based array to target specific species. The results will be sent for DNA sequencing and the sequences analyzed. This information could ultimately be used for a more robust and sensitive test to be developed to identify exposure to these pathogens.

Additionally, blood samples from dogs will be collected and those samples testing positive for these diseases will be interrogated using a new PCR based array to identify active infections in the dogs. This will reveal a better understanding of incidence and distribution of these diseases in dogs in Southeastern Massachusetts allowing for more effective prevention and education. At the same time identifying the number of active cases will promote development of better treatment plans and a quantitative understanding of the limitations of current testing methods.

Veterinarians have long recognized that dogs are sentinels for the risk of Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis to people.  Lisa McKitrick, member of the Paws To People advisory board and co-owner of Boofy’s Best for Pets, summarized the Paws To People Advisory Board’s unanimous recommendation to fund this project, “Clearly, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis are on the rise in both human and canine populations, but it’s definitely time to look at the how and why.  Developing a sensitive PCR assay for better diagnostics is the biggest potential benefit of this research. 

The current protocol of throwing antibiotics at suspected (and not necessarily confirmed) cases of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis is hard to justify in this age of growing antibiotic resistance. I think that for an initial project to fund, this is a good one since the time frame for getting the results put into widespread action could be relatively short.  That fits in very well with P2P’s goal of making a real difference now.” 

Paws To People is at the front line to help define a new approach to medicine and to rediscover our connectedness to the rest of our planet. By building bridges we will find innovative solutions to how we detect, prevent and cure diseases that take too many too soon. For more information visit the organization’s website: or email them at info@BridgesToCures.

Paws To People is a recognized 501(c) (3) non-profit, founded and based in Albuquerque; it is an all-volunteer group of people filled with hope of the potential of translational/comparative studies research. The nonprofit is determined that work remains focused on funding this important research and thus, they keep operating cost minimal.