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Blood samples were obtained from dogs in tick-infested regions of southern Connecticut to assess canine exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of
Lyme disease in human beings. An indirect fluorescent antibody test detected immunoglobulin (Ig)M antibodies at titers of 1:64 to 1:512 in 22 of 84 serum samples previously shown to be positive with a polyvalent rabbit anti-dog total Ig conjugate. Analyses of paired serum samples from 20 seropositive dogs revealed temporal differences in titers; changes occurred during brief (1 month) or extended (greater than 4 years) sampling periods. Clinical records for 52 seropositive dogs indicated a history of intermittent lameness in 19 of these. Limb/joint disorders typically developed in dogs without IgM antibodies, suggesting manifestation during later phases of illness. A microscopic-agglutination test was used to assess cross reactivity between B burgdorferi and 20 serovars of Leptospira interrogans and biflexa. Analyses of 63 dog serum specimens with antibodies to B burgdorferi and a series of reference rabbit sera revealed minor antigenic relatedness. There was geographic clustering of dogs with antibodies to B burgdorferi in areas of south-central and southeastern Connecticut, where human
Lyme disease also occurs.