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Diagnostic Testing Lab – Department of Clinical Sciences 

Vector Borne Disease Diagnostics

Lab Contact:    919.513.8279

 

Important Update: Babesia gibsoni IFA slides are now replenished! As of December 1st, 2016, we will return to using B. gibsoni and B. canis vogeli slides for all Babesia IFA screenings. Please make sure to download our current test request form which reflects those changes. 
The lab focuses on research that benefits animal health. We look to provide quality answers to diagnostic questions. The assays, antigens and controls used are developed and validated as a component of our research. We reserve the right to modify methods or reagents as needed to achieve the best analysis possible without reliance on any proprietary method or reagents. We give each case with which we become involved the highest quality and attention possible.

NC State CVM vector borne disease lab team

 

Care, Speed, and Accuracy 

We handle samples with care and appropriate speed to obtain the most informative and accurate result. We collect and utilize descriptive information imparted with that sample (address, age, breed, sex, history) in ways that reveal the useful and pertinent context for the diseases we study without divulging information in any way that might insult or harm the animal, owner, or veterinarian concerned.

The lab utilizes PCR in many of our diagnostic tests. It can be extremely sensitive and specific, making it an effective diagnostic tool. Very few diagnostic assays are 100% sensitive and 100% specific, including PCR, and while uncommon, false negatives and false positives can occur. A false negative result may occur when an organism is present in the animal but is not detected. This can happen if the pathogen is not present in the particular blood or tissue sample that was collected or is present but below the assay’s limit of detection. Alternatively, PCRs can give false positive results, either through accidental contamination or priming and amplification of untargeted DNA. To minimize false results, the VBDDL uses multiple PCR assays and DNA sequence analysis to identify the presence of pathogen DNA in blood or tissue samples and utilizes strict guidelines to prevent DNA contamination. If a referring veterinarian receives results from our service that in the context of an animal’s disease do not make sense, we would be happy to investigate further and provide verification of the sample in question.

Diagnostics 

We produce comprehensive molecular and serological panels, targeting multiple pathogens rather than a single infection, may identify overlooked or co-infecting microorganisms, thus potentially affecting treatment or management strategies in your patients. Since January 2013, we have offered Canine or Feline Comprehensive Panels that detect antibodies against 12 known species and detect the presence, within circulating blood or submitted tissues, of disease-causing organisms from 5 pathogenic genera.

We offer this $385 value at a greater than 50% discount! Results of recent studies support the use of PCR and serological assays in parallel as likely to increase the detection of infection with or exposure to Canine Vector Borne Diseases by 60% in some populations of vector exposed dogs. (Maggi RG, Birkenheuer AJ, Hegarty BC, Bradley JM, Levy MG, Breitschwerdt EB. 2014. Advantages and limitations of serological and molecular panels for the diagnosis of vector-borne infectious diseases in dogs. Parasites & Vectors. 7:127.

We are continuously engaged in efforts to improve our PCR assays. This year, the VBDDL developed a quantitative PCR (qPCR) for detection and discrimination of spotted fever and typhus group Rickettsia spp. in diagnostic samples. Since converting to the new qPCR, the VBDDL has detected R. rickettsia in 6 dogs; R. amblyommii in an A. amblyomma tick; and R. honei in a human sample from Australia. Recently improvements in Bartonella qPCR have made it possible to detect B.clarridgeiae and B.rochalimae in diagnostic samples. Furthermore, we recently completed the development and validation of new Ehrlichia and Anaplasma genera and species-specific qPCR assays, which have been implemented in our diagnostic panels. Our Babesia PCR has confirmed detection of B.conradae as well as B.canis, B.gibsoni, B.odicoilei, and B.coco. The addition of hemotropic mycoplasma to the panel has resulted in the detection of numerous M.haemominutum, M.hemoparvum, M.hemocanis and M.hemofelis (in descending order of prevalence).

 

New Discoveries

We are excited about the opportunities given to us as more referring veterinarians are selecting the more comprehensive panels.

Historically, the window of opportunity to detect rickettsial pathogens in blood by PCR has been short and many veterinarians have opted to rely upon serology over PCR. However, with more requests for comprehensive panels, the lab has been able to improve PCR methods to the extent that we are now able to detect 3 R. felis infections in dogs. The R.felis exposures seem to be coming out of the Caribbean and southeastern US states. The presence of R.felis in this region is supported by sequences deposited by Lee,S. et al recently in GenBank in which R.felis (clone Aa2FT247-16) was amplified from ticks in NC.

Thanks to our clients for giving us the means by which to refine the testing so as to detect these types of pathogens and, thereby, allowing them to treat these infections!

Resources 

General

Disease Information

Testing Methods

Alternative Sample Methods

Webcasts and Podcasts

AKC Canine Health Foundation is helping dogs live longer, healthier lives by supporting research and diagnostic efforts like the work at the Vector Borne Disease Lab 

Podcasts 

  • Tick Borne Diseases  On Genome Barks, we welcome back Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, a specialist in internal medicine and infectious disease at North Carolina State University. Dr. Breitschwerdt has received funding from the AKC Canine Health Foundation for various infectious diseases including Bartonella spp. In this podcast, Dr. Breitschwerdt describes several common tick borne illness, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and Lyme Disease. Dr. Breitschwerdt also shares the symptoms to watch for and what treatments are available.
  •  Bartonella: “The Hidden Epidemic!” – On Radio In Vivo. Guest: Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, Professor of Internal Medicine, NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine; Chief Scientific Officer & Co-founder, Galaxy Diagnostics, Inc. Topics: Detection, diagnosis and treatment of Bartonella infections in animals and humans, vector borne diseases, One Health

Canine or Feline Comprehensive Panels

Ship Samples on ice packs via FEDEX or UPS for next morning delivery to: 
NC State College of Veterinary Medicine
ATTN: Vector Borne Disease Lab
1060 William Moore Drive
Room 462A
Raleigh, NC 27607

CLINICAL STUDY: Equine Vector-Borne Disease (VBD) in horses: This study has ended.

CLINICAL STUDY: Feline Vector-Borne Disease (FVBD) in cats with acute onset fever
**FREE Feline Comprehensive Panels will be provided to cases fitting the inclusion criteria.**
Your involvement is essential for the success of the study! A soon to be published report concluded that cats are exposed to and can be infected with similar vector-borne pathogens that commonly infect dogs and humans.

1. We will use recently improved vector-borne pathogen diagnostic assays to screen cats with acute onset fever to gain insight into the prevalence of FVBD in cats with acute onset fever and to better understand the clinical signs of diseases caused by flea and tick-borne pathogens. This study requires blood and serum samples from cats with natural exposure to fleas and ticks who are presenting with signs of acute onset fever.

Please see documents below for more information and entry criteria.

1. New Parasites &Vectors publication, 2015 (in press). “Serological and molecular analysis of feline vector-borne anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis using species-specific peptides and PCR.” Hegarty BC, Qurollo BA, Thomas B, Park K, Chandrashekar R, Beall MJ, Thatcher B, Breitschwerdt EB

Support our Research 

With rising costs, our expenses are not always covered by the monthly revenue generated, which may ultimately affect the survival of the Lab. If you (or your client) would like to make a tax-deductible donation (tax deductible) in support of our vector borne disease research, outbreak investigations and pro bono consultations provided by the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine faculty, click the button below.

 

Diagnostic services provided under by the Vector Borne Disease Diagnostic Laboratory are completely self-supported by revenue or donations to the Lab. All income derived from diagnostic testing is used to recover costs for reagents, equipment, supplies and for the salaries of the receptionist and technicians who process the specimens submitted for testing.

Over the years, we have supported a spectrum of outreach and educational opportunities using the revenues generated as a result of our diagnostic service offerings. As examples, students at all academic levels and from many national and international locations, have had the experience of working in a diagnostic laboratory or have participated in a focused research project related to vector borne infectious diseases of companion animals or wildlife species. We are proud of the fact that many of our undergraduate and graduate students have subsequently pursued careers in research or medicine (both human and veterinary medicine).

Interactions with veterinarians throughout the world have led to Lab investigations of complicated cases involving single sick animal or disease outbreaks involving entire kennels.  The Lab has frequently participated in these case-based or kennel outbreak studies without taking remuneration into consideration. Unfortunately, there is not a CDC or USDA equivalent for companion animal diseases; therefore there is no infrastructure or established source of funds to address unusual illnesses in pets.

Selected Examples of Our Research:

  • In response to a referring veterinarian’s call in the mid 1980’s seeking consultation relative to sick and dying Huskies in a newly built kennel in North Carolina, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was diagnosed by skin biopsy and first identified as a disease of dogs.
    Published article: Canine Rocky Mountain spotted fever: a kennel epizootic.  Breitschwerdt EB, Meuten DJ, Walker DH, Levy M, Kennedy K, King M, Curtis B. Am J Vet Res. 1985;46:2124-8
  • In the summer of 1997, the Lab undertook an unfunded investigation of a kennel of sick and dying Walker Hounds routinely used for deer hunting in rural North Carolina. A high degree of co-infection was documented by serology and molecular assays. By PCR, of the 27 dogs, 15 were infected with Ehrlichia canis, 9 with E.chaffeensis, 8 with E.ewingii, 3 with Anaplasma phagocytophilum, 9 with A.platys, 20 with a Rickettsia species, 16 with a Bartonella species, and 7 with Babesia canis. Both E. canis and an uncharacterized Rickettsia species appeared to result in chronic or recurrent infection. As an outcome of this study, lessons were learned about the detection of co-infecting species with an appreciation for high risk populations exposed to numerous ticks.
    Published article: Kordick SK, Breitschwerdt EB, Hegarty BC, Southwick KL, Colitz CM, Hancock SI, Bradley JM, Rumbough R, Mcpherson JT, MacCormack JN. Coinfection with multiple tick-borne pathogens in a Walker Hound kennel in North Carolina. J Clin Microbiol. 1999 Aug;37(8):2631-8
  • Research on dogs from kennels of American pit bull terriers and of racing and retired Greyhounds, established an association between dog breed and Babesia spp. Babesia gibsoni-infected dogs were more likely to be American pit bull terriers and B. canis vogeli infected dogs were more likely to be greyhounds. These studies described the initial detection of a B. gibsoni epidemic amongst the pit bull terrier population.
    Published articles:(1) Birkenheuer AJ, Levy MG, Stebbins M, Poore M, Breitschwerdt E. Serosurvey of antiBabesia antibodies in stray dogs and American pit bull terriers and American staffordshire terriers from North Carolina. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2003 Nov-Dec;39(6):551-7. (2) Birkenheuer AJ, Correa MT, Levy MG, Breitschwerdt EB. Geographic distribution of babesiosis among dogs in the United States and association with dog bites: 150 cases (2000-2003). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 Sep 15;227(6):942-7
  • Initial description of the demographic and clinical characteristics of feline cytauxzoonosis was obtained through a retrospective study of 34 C.felis infected cats. Pancytopenia and icterus were the most common clinicopathologic abnormalities. Thirty- two cats either died or were euthanatized, and 2 cats survived. Data indicated that veterinarians in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA should consider C felis infection in cats with fever, icterus, and pancytopenia or bicytopenia.
    Published article: Birkenheuer AJ, Le JA, Valenzisi AM, Tucker MD, Levy MG, Breitschwerdt EB. Cytauxzoon felis infection in cats in the mid-Atlantic states: 34 cases (1998-2004). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Feb 15;228(4):568-71
  • The initial recognition of Leishmaniasis in the USA came after a veterinarian north of NYC called concerning fatalities amongst some 120 hounds in a breeding and foxhunting kennel. Upon the suspicion of tick borne disease, serological and molecular testing was requested. Extensive workups, mostly unfunded, on all 120 hounds, including cytology and full necropsies on several at NCSU CVM Teaching Hospital finally resulted in a diagnosis of L.infantum. Further epidemiological workups on the part of the CDC defined the outbreak in this kennel and in other foxhound kennels that trained in southern states as an epidemic of Leishmaniasis unrecognized previously in North America. The VBDDL developed specific IFA and PCR assays to address the diagnosis of Leishmaniasis in the future and aided in the screening of all foxhound kennels in the US.
    Published article: Gaskin AA, Schantz P, Jackson J, Birkenheuer A, Tomlinson L, Gramiccia M, Levy M, Steurer F, Kollmar E, Hegarty BC, Ahn A, Breitschwerdt EB. Visceral leishmaniasis in a New York foxhound kennel. J Vet Intern Med. 2002 Jan-Feb;16(1):34-44.