Borrelia burgdorferi DNA and auto-DNA antibody detection in blood, synovial fluid, and urine of infected dogs


To use a novel assay to detect bacterial DNA, and to measure auto-antibodies to determine if chronic Lyme disease in dogs is the result of persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in the host and/or an autoimmune response.


Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that causes acute and chronic Lyme disease (LD) in humans and dogs. Early diagnosis of LD is problematic because the primary clinical sign, Erythema Migrans rash, is missed or absent in dogs. Without treatment, dogs may develop chronic LD. In 2014, more than 30,000 human LD cases were reported, an estimated 300,000 cases went unreported, and a 9-fold increase in reported human LD cases occurred in Virginia. The incidence of LD in dogs in not known, but infection, as determined by a positive blood test, is highly prevalent. Undetected LD can result in serious health complications in humans and dogs. Current testing in dogs is for the presence of antibodies only, and only indicates that exposure to the organism has occurred. It does not indicate disease or the presence of bacteria. Our hypothesis is that chronic LD is either the result of persistence of the bacteria in the host, and/or an autoimmune response. This hypothesis will be tested using novel and highly sensitive assays we developed for detection of bacterial antigen or DNA, and measurement of auto-antibodies in affected humans and dogs.


  • Dogs of any age, weight, or breed known or suspected to be infected with Lyme disease, and exhibiting clinical signs associated with Lyme infection.

Exclusion Criteria

  • Participation is voluntary. Owners who do not wish their pets to be involved in the study will be excluded.

Study Design

Dogs will be admitted to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg as regular clinical patients for presumptive diagnosis of Lyme disease. The clinician will explain the study, and if the owner agrees, the dog will be enrolled in the study. Blood and urine will be collected using the standard methods for collecting samples at our hospital. These sample collections are part of the standard diagnostic procedure for dogs with suspected Lyme infection; no additional samples or procedures will be undertaken. For dogs with lameness and swollen joints, arthrocentesis will be offered as the most sensitive method to detect Lyme disease arthritis. With owner permission, the dog will be sedated in order to extract a fluid sample from the dog’s joint for analysis. Arthrocentesis may be recommended as part of the treatment protocol. Enrolled dogs will be released to their owner on same day they are admitted. Clinical care and diagnosis will not be affected by participation in this study.


The clinical trial related assays are of no cost to the client. There is no compensation.


Dr. Anna Champion, Biomedical Science
Phone: 540-231-1120 | Email:

Mindy Quigley, Clinical Trials Coordinator
Office Phone: 540-231-1363 | Email:

If your query is urgent, please call the Small Animal Hospital on 540-231-4621.