CVMDL

Mystic Aquarium and CVMDL are Enhancing Animal Health and Learning Experiences

Visiting an aquarium transports people to another world, an underwater world filled with many different plants and animals. Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut cares for 5,000 animals from over 355 species, from octopus to beluga whales and sea lions. Studying these animals offers a unique opportunity to learn about conserving these species in the wild, in support of Mystic Aquarium’s mission to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research.

CVMDL road sign
Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory on Jan. 14, 2019. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Behind habitats that feature brightly colored fish and a diversity of other animals, like beluga whales that appear to engage with visitors, are the professionals – veterinarians, aquarists, trainers, divers, and environmental quality staff – that protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of the animals. The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) in the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is a partner in protecting and enhancing the health of the aquatic animals at Mystic Aquarium and has collaborated with Mystic Aquarium’s veterinarians for almost thirty years.

CVMDL partners with Mystic Aquarium on diagnostics and research to advance aquatic animal care and health and shares these initiatives with the larger scientific and educational communities.

The partnership between CVMDL and Mystic Aquarium started with Dr. Salvatore Frasca Jr., the Director of CVMDL. Dr. Frasca’s research focus is on pathology and diagnostics of aquatic animals. Service, through his appointment with UConn Extension and work with CVMDL, has always been a key component of his work.

“I chose UConn because it was close to Mystic Aquarium,” Dr. Frasca says. “I’m proud and pleased that CVMDL, through our service and educational activities, has been supporting Mystic Aquarium for over 30 years. We have a legacy of Extension activities at Mystic Aquarium that many people from both organizations have been part of.”

Dr. Frasca was enrolled in the Residency/PhD program in veterinary anatomic pathology at UConn in the 1990s after earning his veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he had worked closely with Dr. J. Lawrence Dunn, the veterinarian at Mystic Aquarium at the time. The two realized that there was a nationwide shortage of educational opportunities for veterinarians to learn aquatic animal medicine. Together, they wrote a grant to create an internship program at Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic Aquarium’s Internship in Aquatic Animal Medicine and Research teaches veterinarians how to apply and develop their skills for the benefit of aquatic animals and helps veterinarians further develop their expertise with research. It was the first aquatic marine animal veterinary internship ever offered, and Mystic Aquarium’s internship program has since trained nearly 30 veterinarians, many of whom are now leaders in the field of aquatic animal medicine, including two of the veterinarians currently employed at Mystic Aquarium. After receiving the grant, Dr. Frasca was encouraged to apply, and served as the first veterinary intern in the program in 1992. For nearly thirty years the program has continued to train veterinarians in aquatic animal health and has prompted similar opportunities in other locations.

The idea of developing educational experiences in clinical medicine and pathology was the foundation of the original partnership. CVMDL provides the pathology component and Mystic Aquarium has the clinical component. They are parallel tracks that weave back and forth because of the nature of the programs. Veterinarians come to UConn’s residency program in veterinary anatomic pathology, in part, because they want to experience aquatic animals. CVMDL integrates aquatic animals into the fabric of the training material and provides transformational learning experiences.

Enhancing Animal Health and Conservation

Allison D. Tuttle, DVM, Diplomate ACZM with a penguin
Allison D. Tuttle, DVM, Diplomate ACZM

Dr. Allison Tuttle is the Senior Vice President of Zoologic Operations at Mystic Aquarium. She was introduced to Mystic Aquarium on a tour with the AQUAVET program, and then served as the Veterinary Intern in Aquatic Animal Medicine and Research from 2002 to 2004. Dr. Tuttle re-joined the aquarium as Director of Animal Care in 2007 when Dr. Dunn retired. In her current role, Dr. Tuttle oversees animal husbandry, animal rescue, veterinary services, environmental quality, the dive program, and exhibit interpretation.

“I fell in love with Mystic Aquarium on that initial tour,” Dr. Tuttle says. “There is a nice balance of opportunities among the programs we have, and we play a key role in wild marine animal rescue for our region.”

Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program manages 1,000 miles of coastline and monitors deceased wild marine mammals and sea turtles to determine their cause of death. The aquarium sends samples to CVMDL for histopathologic analysis, which provides critically important information on what is happening in our oceans. The aquarium submits reports containing this data to federal agencies, and these reports are utilized to shape regulations and policies preventing fisheries and human interaction, which is important for marine mammal and sea turtle conservation.

wild whale examination
Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium.

“Our oceans are changing and there are a lot of unusual mortality events, in particular with large whale species in the greater Atlantic region,” Dr. Tuttle says. “As new issues emerge with the ocean it becomes increasingly important to monitor what is occurring. It’s tremendously difficult to study these whales; the data we collect is sometimes the only information we have on these animals.”

CVMDL’s pathology and diagnostic services have been integral to the health of Mystic Aquarium’s animals as well. They partner on sample analysis for their animals as well as on scientific collaborations. The aquarium sends samples to CVMDL for histopathologic analysis and biopsies on active clinical cases. The results from CVMDL guide care of the animals, important in the management of a healthy, robust population, by informing treatment and allowing for the best animal care possible.

Scientific research is another area where Mystic Aquarium and CVMDL collaborate. Aquatic clinical medicine and pathology go hand-in-hand. For example, Mystic Aquarium worked with CVMDL and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to report Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infection in a colony of penguins in 2003. EEE is an emerging health concern. Until that report, EEE infection in penguins had not been described. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Mystic Aquarium has a great relationship with UConn and Dr. Frasca,” says Dr. Tuttle. “We have a strong connection with UConn and our conservation and animal care are greatly enhanced through our partnership with CVMDL.”

CVMDL is on the front lines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. The aquatic animal pathology service is one part of their work. Clients include those within the state, such as Mystic Aquarium and The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and clients and aquariums from across the country. The laboratory offers diagnostic testing in support of pathology, including bacterial and fungal culture and molecular testing. The long-standing service history in aquatic animal pathology started with the relationship with Mystic Aquarium and now serves a number of other aquariums nationwide.

“CVMDL is committed to working with Mystic Aquarium, we’ve always known that Mystic Aquarium is a special asset for Connecticut,” Dr. Frasca concludes. “Extension activity is born of confluence and synergy of educational activities. That is exactly what happened with Mystic Aquarium.”

Article by Stacey Stearns

CVMDL Identifies Asian Longhorned Tick Submitted from NY

Adult Asian Longhorn Tick dorsal view
Photo: Holly McGinnis and Maureen Sims, UConn CVMDL

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn is reporting the identification of the Asian longhorned tick. This is the first time that CVMDL has identified this tick species. The ticks were submitted to CVMDL for identification and testing from the State of New York. Our laboratory notified New York State Animal and Public Health officials of the findings. This information was also reported to the USDA per regulations.

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, such as long grass and the leaf litter, and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting the agent that causes Lyme disease (the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi), it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

Identification of the Asian longhorned tick at CVMDL is significant because it means their population is increasing and that presents another public health concern. Asian longhorned ticks are not traditionally found in the Western Hemisphere but were first identified here in 2017.

Although Asian longhorned ticks are not as attracted to humans as pets and livestock, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and scientists at UConn’s CVMDL encourage people to take precautions against the tick. We are still uncertain of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick carries and spreads. The CDC offers guidelines to help people prevent tick bites.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or learn how to submit a tick test at https://bit.ly/HowToTestTick.

Emergent Disease in Connecticut Deer Population Discovered

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) discovered an emergent disease in deer population in Connecticut.

female whitetail deer in Woodbridge, CT
Photo: Miguel Rangel Jr

In October of 2017 DEEP officials detected an unusual die-off of White Tail deer in central Connecticut. DEEP submitted carcasses to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) to establish possible causes of death. Necropsies were performed and tissues from the deer were analyzed by pathologists at the UConn laboratory. Anatomic changes observed in these tissues alerted pathologists to a disease never before recognized in Connecticut, “Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease of deer” (EHD). Samples were referred to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia where the presence of EHD virus (EHDV) was established.

EHDV causes a hemorrhagic disease in deer that is transmitted by midges, insects of the Culicoides spp. These insects also transmit the virus causing Bluetongue disease in domestic ruminants (goats, sheep and cattle). Bluetongue has not been found in Connecticut. There is a sustained expansion of these diseases in the United States linked to the geographical expansion of the transmitting vectors, in this case to northern latitudes.

DEEP and CVMDL have joined efforts over the years on discovering, detecting and reporting diseases affecting wildlife that, given environmental and ecological conditions, may spill over into livestock and human populations in the state of Connecticut.

This particular common effort, detecting EHDV in Connecticut, has initiated further studies at CVMDL to identify which species of Culicoides are responsible for transmission of the virus here in Connecticut. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in New Haven is supporting this effort by providing CVMDL with Culicoides insects trapped across the State of Connecticut.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn CAHNR, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

Article written by CVMDL

Information About EEE from CVMDL at UConn

mosquito biting a person
2003
CDC/James Gathany
Photographer: James Gathany
This is an Ochlerotatus triseriatus mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human hand.
Also known as Aedes triseriatus, and commonly known as the ”treehole mosquito”, this species is a known West Nile Virus vector.
Photo by James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. Researchers and veterinarians UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.

Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.

EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector. Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.

With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.

Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

 

Reference

LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf

UConn CVMDL Tests Ticks for Disease-Causing Agents

tick testing at UConn
Photo: UConn Communications

Pet owners, livestock owners, and outdoor enthusiasts statewide need to maintain vigilance against ticks because as the fall season approaches will see an increase in their activity. UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology & Veterinary Science in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontline of tick testing to inform submitters of the risks associated with that tick. 

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, such as long grass and the leaf litter, and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting the agent that causes Lyme disease (the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi), it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

“Our lab offers tick identification services, in addition to many other services,” says Dr. Joan Smyth, Director of CVMDL. Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks, and to monitor for the spread of ticks that may have been recently introduced to our area, for example the long-horned tick. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately. CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within three to five business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.

Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl@uconn.edu or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.

Equine Owners Should Vaccinate for EEE, Warns CVMDL at UConn

Eastern equine encephalitis slide
Colourised transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicting a salivary gland that had been extracted from a mosquito, which was infected by the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, which has been colorized red; magnified 83,900x. {{PD-USGov-HHS-CDC}}

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. In recent weeks. two unrelated sick birds, one of which was a bald eagle, tested positive for EEE at UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL). Researchers and veterinarians at CVMDL encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.

Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.

EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector. Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.

With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.

Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.eduor call 860-486-3738.

References:

LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf

UConn CVMDL Monitoring for Longhorned Tick

A female longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis). Credit/ James Gathany/CDC/Anna E. Perea2018
A female longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis). Credit: James Gathany/CDC/Anna E. Perea 2018

Recent reports of the longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis or Asian Longhorned tick)being found in Westchester County, New York have alarmed livestock owners and outdoor enthusiasts statewide. The longhorned tick is native to Asia and was reported in the continental USA in November 2017, when it was first discovered on a sheep farm in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  This tick has already been identified in western Connecticut.  While the Asian longhorned ticks discovered in the United States has not been found to carry any pathogen causing human diseases, In Asia the longhorned tick has been associated with tick-borne encephalitis, and they are apparently capable of carrying Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Babesiaspecies, and Powassan virus all of which can affect humans. This tick may also represent a problem for farm animals since they can transmit a pathogen that causes theileriosis, a disease of cattle and sheep, as well as the agents that cause babesisosis in animals. An interesting feature of this tick is that it can reproduce by parthogenesis (no male needed), so the number of ticks on one animal can be very high.

UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontline of tick testing to keep humans and animals safe.

“Our staff are watching out for this tick among our tick submissions,” says Dr. Joan Smyth, Director of CVMDL. “To date we have not had any longhorned ticks. Our lab offers tick identification services, in addition to the many other services provided.”

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

In humans, symptoms from a longhorned tick bite include rash, fever, nausea, body aches, tiredness, headache and vomiting. Symptoms for animals vary by species and can include blood loss, anemia, skin irritations and infections. Always consult your veterinarian if you notice changes in your animals.

Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.

Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl@uconn.edu or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.

Tick Testing 101

tick testing at UConn
Photo: UConn Communications

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examinedunder a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, and next day testing is available for an additional fee.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl.uconn.edu or 860-486-3738.

Safeguarding Health Through Diagnostics

Heidi and Scott Morey
Veterinarians Heidi Morey ’05 (CAHNR) and Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) with Jonathan XIV at Fenton River Veterinary Hospital in Tolland on June 21, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn safeguards animal and human health. Faculty and staff fulfill their mission through veterinary diagnostic laboratory services, professional expertise, and collaboration with state and federal agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health, as well as detecting newly emerging diseases.

CVMDL is committed to providing current, timely, and personalized expert service to our client veterinarians, animal owners, producers, academic collaborators, and partner agencies. The laboratory is housed within the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, and develops new approaches to disease identification, investigation, and prevention while educating students, including veterinarians, seeking advanced training in disease related studies.

CVMDL incorporates the land grant university mission of service, teaching, and research in its daily practices, and is the only laboratory in New England accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. Services offered include: histology, immunohistochemistry, mastitis, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, pathology, parasitology, serology, and virology.

“We send a lot of our clients to CVMDL for the necropsy service,” says Dr. Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) of Fenton River Veterinary Hospital in Tolland. “We want a necropsy done in the proper environment, where better diagnostic samples can be obtained and processed, as opposed to what we can collect in a field necropsy. Most of the time we’re mainly looking for infectious disease so we can change what happens for the other animals left on a farm.”

Necropsy services can also be used for small animals. Dr. Heidi Morey ’05 (CAHNR) handles the small animal end of the veterinary practice, while Scott primarily works with large animals. “We had one young dog die suddenly on a client, and CVMDL helped determine it was most likely a heart attack,” Heidi mentions.

“We do a surprising amount of chicken work,” Scott continues. “CVMDL completes efficient and timely necropsies on chickens. We also utilize them for rabies testing, and Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) test for small ruminants. Clients who own sheep and goats want their animals to be CAE negative, and need proof of that. We send the samples to CVMDL.”

Tick testing is part of the molecular diagnostics section. A single infected deer tick can transmit anywhere from one to four illnesses simultaneously. CVMDL is the only laboratory in the state that will test a deer tick off humans or animals. CVMDL also tests other common species of ticks. The lab tests deer ticks for Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, and Borrelia miyamotoi. Dog ticks are tested for Francisella tularensis, Rickettsia rickettsia, Ehrlichiaspecies. Lonestar ticks are tested for Ehrlichiaspecies, Francisella tularensis, and Borrelia lonestari. Brown dog ticks are tested for Rickettsia rickettsiaand Ehrlichia species.

Residents, doctors, veterinarians, and public health officials utilize tick testing services to make proactive and informed decisions regarding human and animal health. In 2017, 397 ticks were tested.

Connecticut is home to a number of large dairy farms, and CVMDL provides mastitis testing and environmental pathogen testing, in addition to Brucellosis, Johnne’s, and other diseases. Rabies tests on animals that may have come in contact with a human are also sent to the Department of Public Health for confirmation testing. All other rabies testing in Connecticut is done at CVMDL.

The laboratory is on the frontlines of safeguarding animal and human health in Connecticut. Each case that arrives in Storrs is different, and provides the team at CVMDL with another opportunity to teach students and clients, develop new tests and procedures, and monitor disease and health issues.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Testing Ticks is Vital to Safety

ticks being tested for Lyme disease at UConn lab
Photo: Heather Haycock

The warmer weather has people and our animals headed outdoors. Unfortunately, this same weather has also brought ticks out in abundance. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have cited increased numbers of ticks, and tick-borne diseases. UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and tick testing to keep humans and animals safe.

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

In the Northeast, we see the Deer tick, the Dog tick (Dermacentor variablis), Brown Dog tick (Rhiphcephalus sanguineus) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum). Each of these can be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.

CVMDL has been busy testing ticks this spring. We received 33 ticks for testing in April. Of these specimens, 25 of them were received in the last two weeks of the month. Two of the ticks were found on dogs. Overaal, the results showed that the Lyme disease agent was detected in 8 specimens, B. burgdorferi and Babesia microti (Babesiosis) were detected in one specimen whereas 4 ticks were positive for both B. burgdorferiand Anaplasma phagocytophilum(Anaplasmosis).

UConn researchers are not just testing for diseases transmitted by ticks. Researchers at PVS are also working to develop vaccines and preventative control measures to combat tick-borne illnesses.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.

Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl@uconn.edu or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.