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News Article

Highly sensitive test identifies Lyme disease in horses

Lyme neuroborreliosis in horses is difficult to diagnose and is rarely confirmed antemortem

An advanced DNA test devised by Steven Schutzer, a professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, helped a Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine team identify neurologic Lyme disease in a Swedish Warmblood mare. The method is described in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation.

Although Lyme disease was suspected as the cause of acute neurologic disease in the 11-year-old mare, an antibody test and a standard PCR test did not detect the disease agent, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

A genomic hybrid capture assay, a highly sensitive test Schutzer’s team has been developing, identified the pathogen in a sample of the horse’s spinal fluid, allowing it to be diagnosed and successfully treated. The test works by first selectively isolating DNA from B. burgdorferi.

Schutzer, an expert in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, has been working to devise ways to better detect diseases that possess low copy numbers of a pathogen.

“The method is like having a special, specific ‘fishhook’ that only grabs Borrelia DNA and not the DNA of other microbes, nor the DNA of the host (animal or human),” Schutzer said. “Detecting DNA of the disease is a direct test, meaning we know you have active disease if it’s circulating in the blood or spinal fluid.”

“The diagnosis of Lyme neuroborreliosis (neurologic Lyme disease) in horses is rarely confirmed antemortem and has frustrated veterinarians for years,” said Thomas Divers, the veterinarian who led the equine team on the paper and who is a professor of medicine and co-chief of the Section of Large Animal Medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in New York. “This is a very promising technique. Focused treatment against B. burgdorferi administered in this case resulted in the horse’s complete athletic recovery.”

Other scientists on the study included Claire Fraser and Emmanuel Mongodin of the Institute of Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine; Christopher Miller of Miller and Associates Equine Practice in Brewster, New York; Rodney Belgrave of Mid-Atlantic Equine Hospital in Ringoes, New Jersey and Rachel Gardner of B.W. Furlong and Associates in Oldwick, New Jersey.

Article: Divers, T. J., Mongodin, E. F., Miller, C. B., Belgrave, R. L., Gardner, R. B., Fraser, C. M., Schutzer, S. E. (2022). Genomic hybrid capture assay to detect Borrelia burgdorferi: an application to diagnose neuroborreliosis in horses. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, advance online publication, doi: 10.1177/10406387221112617

Article details

  • Date
  • 19 August 2022
  • Source
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey