Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Australian Investigation in Lyme Borreliosis and other Vector bourne llnesss

You have been sent this letter and its enclosures by Dr Peter Mayne of the Laurieton Medical Centre.

I would like to invite you, through Dr Mayne, to join a study I am conducting into several vector-borne diseases – Lyme Borreliosis, Bartonellosis and Rickettsiosis.

It is my understanding that you have been diagnosed with Lyme disease by Dr Mayne, and either have a pet dog yourself or have a close association with a dog or dogs (maybe you walk with a friend who has dogs). By way of background to this study, I am a veterinarian who studies vector-borne diseases of dogs, and I also teach clinical medicine to veterinary students at the Murdoch University Veterinary School. As I expect you know, Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia bacteria that are usually transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick. In regions of the world where Lyme disease is endemic and well recognised, such as in north-eastern USA, people’s dogs are also often infected by the same organism. This is because dogs, being ‘closer to the ground’ and having ready access to the undergrowth, are even more likely than their owners to be exposed to the vector ticks. Dogs are often regarded in these regions as “sentinels” of infection; in other words the dogs can act as an early warning of potential infection in humans in the area.

I am interested to know whether the dogs in your life have been exposed to Borrelia and/or other pathogens that can also cause illness in people, such as Bartonella bacteria or Rickettsia (another bacterium-like micro-organism).

In order for this research project to be fully informative I need your consent to obtain information about yourself and about your dog(s) and I also seek your permission to examine and take a blood sample from your dog(s). Both aspects of this study have been approved by the Research Ethics Committees (Human and Animal) at Murdoch University. It is entirely up to you as to how much information you permit me access to, and whether you allow me to take a blood sample from your dog(s). If you do not wish to participate, you need not do anything further.

If you wish to participate in the study I suggest that we proceed as follows:

1. You read all the information provided with this letter, sign the consent forms (one each for the Human Ethics and Animal Ethics Committees), and return them to me by mail (self-addressed envelope enclosed) together with the questionnaire, completed to the best of your ability.

2. After receipt of the signed consent form, I will contact you by telephone to arrange a time and location for us to meet and for me to examine your dog(s) and collect a blood sample from them. As you will see from this letter, I am based in Western Australia, so I will be arranging a week-long visit to NSW in March or April.

3. I am also seeking your consent to test samples from you, such as blood or tissues. In many cases these will have been taken previously by Dr Mayne or other doctors and are stored in a laboratory, so I just need your permission to access them. If no such samples are stored, I might need to ask if we can collect another blood sample from you. I should point out that this would be done by your health professionals, and not by me!

The initial results of the blood test on your dog(s) will be available immediately. I will be using a test kit known as the Idexx Snap 4Dx. This provides information on whether your dog has been exposed to three bacterial organisms (Borrelia, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma) and whether he/she has heartworm. So this is a free heartworm test as well!

I will be happy to discuss the significance of the test results with you of course, especially if any is positive, but I would also like to send a report to your own veterinarian as a matter of courtesy.

If you have a close interaction with certain dogs by association, such as those owned by family or friends, but do not actually own a dog, I would also like to examine those dogs and sample them if possible. This will require their owners to agree to me testing the dogs and they should therefore complete one of the enclosed Animal Ethics consent forms. You should still complete the questionnaire and return it to me together with the consent forms (one signed by you and one (for each dog) signed by the owner).

You can decide at any time to withdraw your consent to participate in this research. If you decide to withdraw, any material you have given us will be destroyed. Withdrawing from the research will have no consequences for your ongoing interaction with Dr Mayne.

I am happy to discuss with you any concerns you may have about this study. All my contact details are provided below.

In addition to the blood test results that I will be able to tell you immediately, you can expect to receive feedback from the overall study within a few months of our meeting.

Peter Irwin, BVetMed, PhD, FACVSc (Canine Medicine), MRCVS
Associate Professor in Small Animal Medicine
Registered Specialist (WA) in Canine Medicine
Direct office line: 08 9360 2590
Mobile: 0428 364868

This study has been approved by the Murdoch University Human Research Ethics Committee (Approval 2011/05) AND the Murdoch University Animal Ethics Committee (Approval R2385/10). If you have any reservation or complaint about the ethical conduct of this research, and wish to talk with an independent person, you may contact Murdoch University’s Research Ethics Office (Tel. 08 9360 6677 or e-mail Any issues you raise will be treated in confidence and investigated fully, and you will be informed of the outcome."

Quoted from an information letter PDF distributed by Peter Irwin to Lyme patients.
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