• Open Access

Search for Borrelia burgdorferi in Kidneys of Dogs with Suspected “Lyme Nephritis”


  • Supported by The Barry and Savannah French-Poodle Memorial Fund. Partial results from this study were previously presented as an abstract at the annual meeting of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, June 1–4, 2005, Baltimore, MD.

Corresponding author: Dr Tabitha Hutton, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010; e-mail: tabitha@post.harvard.edu.


Background: “Lyme nephritis” is a poorly characterized condition associated with proteinuria and often fatal renal failure in dogs with serological evidence of infection with Borrelia burgdorferi.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine if intact B. burgdorferi organisms were present in the kidneys of serologically Lyme-positive dogs with histopathologic features of Lyme nephritis.

Animals: Twenty-six affected and 10 control dogs were identified over an 8-year period (1996–2004) in databases at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Case inclusion required serologic evidence of natural exposure to B. burgdorferi and availability of renal tissue (frozen or paraffin embedded) exhibiting pathology consistent with Lyme nephritis.

Methods: Renal tissue samples were assessed using modified Steiner (silver) (MS) staining, immunohistochemistry (IHC), polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using 4 primer sets (eubacterial, B. burgdorferi, Bartonella, and canine genomic DNA), and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) using a 5′-cy3-eubacterial probe for 16S rRNA.

Results: MS stain was positive in 1 case; IHC was negative in all cases. None of the B. burgdorferi or Bartonella PCR reactions was positive. Two of the B. burgdorferi FISH analyses were positive.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Minimal evidence of the presence of intact B. burgdorferi or any other bacterial organism was found in the renal tissue of dogs with suspected Lyme nephritis. Direct renal invasion by B. burgdorferi organisms does not appear to be responsible for this syndrome.