A grant from the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation funds the latest project within NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s groundbreaking research into an emerging — and devastating — infectious disease.
The $220,000 grant supports a two-year examination of the prevalence of Bartonella infections in dogs across the country suffering from a blood cancer, hemangiosarcoma, that often leads to heart and spleen tumors.
The bacterium Bartonella, which lives in the lining of blood vessels and is transmitted by infected hosts like fleas and ticks, causes an expanding array of clinical illnesses in both animals and humans, including heart valve infections, inflammation of the heart’s inner lining, cat scratch fever, trench fever and a spectrum of chronic diseases.
The new study will dive deeper into evidence suggesting that Bartonella infections contribute to hemangiosarcoma development. That information could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of the cancer, which occurs most often in several popular canine breeds, including German shepherd dogs and golden retrievers.
The co-principal investigators of the study are Ed Breitschwerdt, CVM professor of medicine and infectious disease, and Matthew Breen, CVM professor of genomics and the Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology Genetics.
The CVM is a world leader in the growing field of Bartonella research, and Breitschwerdt has spent more than three decades studying vector-transmitted pathogens. His Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory at NC State’s Comparative Medicine Institute isolated, genetically described and named the first Bartonella species ever found in a dog around the world.
A study last year, co-authored by Erin Lashnits, a graduate student Breitschwerdt advises and mentors, was the first comprehensive survey of Bartonella infections in dogs across North America.
It documented several important characteristics of Bartonella for the first time, including that infections are more likely to be found in non-neutered and mixed-breed dogs, as well as those who have been exposed to Lyme disease or other conditions caused by a bite from an infected host.
The new study hopes to expand on the ever-growing catalog of Bartonella information.
The AKC-CHF is an enthusiastic supporter of Breitschwerdt’s work in infectious disease, including another ongoing Bartonella research grant entitled, “Enhanced Serological Testing Modalities for the Diagnosis of Bartonellosis in Dogs”. Last summer, the nonprofit foundation awarded Breitschwerdt its Asa Mays DVM Award for Excellence in Canine Health Research, citing his innovative research contributing to improved canine and human health.