Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Dr. Richard Marconi

Second Advisor

Dr. Todd Kitten

Third Advisor

Dr. Chris Li

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jason Carlyon

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Martin


The most prevalent tick-borne disease in North America is Lyme Disease (LD) with over 400,000 human and canine cases a year which continues to increase. The disease manifests as a target-like rash with central clearing and can progress to neurologic, dermatologic and cardiac symptoms. Diagnostics utilized for LD are viewed poorly by many clinicians and veterinarians due to concerns of appropriate use and interpretation. With the goal of improving current diagnostic efficacy, a panel of diagnostic chimeric proteins were designed and tested. The most promising diagnostic construct, DCFL4, was validated with a blinded 333 serum sample panel that resulted in 98.2% sensitivity, 98% absolute specificity (pathogen free samples), and 90.2% exclusive specificity (other infections). To determine importance of maternal antibody (Ab) in LD testing of young dogs, serum of pups born to a LD antibody positive dam were examined. Antibody to LD antigens decreased in the pups over time, consistent with passively transferred antibody. Therefore, Ab results before 4-8 weeks of age may indicate maternal antibody and not necessarily infection. Maternal antibody can also prevent robust vaccination responses, such as in Canine Parvovirus (CPV) and Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). CPV and CDV can cause severe illness in puppies, especially in the window between waning of maternal antibody and vaccination. To assess risk of wildlife transmission and identify potential reservoirs, coyote, fox and raccoon serum samples from Pennsylvania were screened to determine the seroprevalence. The percentage of animals that were antibody positive for CDV and CPV was determined to be 27.3% and 44.5% of coyotes (N = 128), 26.7% and 40.0% of red foxes (N=45), 0% and 64.3% of gray foxes (N=14), and 30.3% and 48.5% of raccoons (N= 33), respectively. A large portion of wildlife was found to have exposure and are possible sources of transmission for CDV and CPV to vulnerable populations.


© Amanda Hatke

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Date of Submission


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