Research Update from Dr. Petersen into Tick-Borne Disease.
We have successfully identified sporting and hunting dogs at different clinical stages of Lyme Disease and sampled blood from them in the field. We have confirmed our field diagnoses with a specialized assays performed by IDEXX Laboratories. Currently, we have analyzed ~45% of our goal number of dogs with Lyme exposure. In the lab, we have analyzed the percentage of Natural Killer immune cells and some markers of the activation state of these NK cells in the blood. We have found one subset of these cells increases during canine Lyme disease, however we are interested in whether these cells protect from, or contribute to, inflammation that could case symptomatic Lyme disease to occur. The NK cells from healthy control dogs, dogs with asymptomatic Lyme, symptomatic Lyme, or posttreatment are beginning to show statistical differences in their markers of activation from one another.
We will continue to analyze these cells to increase the statistical power of our observations. Our next experiments, which we have troubleshot and obtained working protocols for, will determine if NK cells from dogs in each Lyme subgroup have different functional properties. Our overall goal is to determine differences between dogs with asymptomatic versus symptomatic Lyme, in order to better understand which cell types, or inflammatory factors produced by them, are helpful for controlling the disease. We have made a good working relationship with the caretakers of the hunting and sporting dogs and we plan to perform another full round of this spring. Based on the number of cases of canine Lyme disease we observed last spring, we estimate that we will be able to collect enough samples to meet our statistical needs for these experiments. We plan to submit the results of these assays for publication this summer.