The MFHA Foundation continues to partner with public health researchers to investigate and innovate in the area of canine health. Extending our cooperation with Dr. Christine Petersen, we are supporting specialized research into the impact of various tick-borne diseases on susceptibility to other illnesses. As Dr. Petersen reported to the Board in May, not only will these studies potentially improve hound management, they may provide insight into disease processes in humans, as well.
Executive Director David Twiggs said, "The MFHA Foundation has been facilitating multi-year canine health studies as part of our commitment to improving canine health worldwide. These studies not only help us in learning more about directly improving our hounds' health, but our findings are being looked at by human health scientists as well.
"Our primary research scientist, Dr. Christine Petersen of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, said: 'It is very exciting to see how immune changes in hounds with tick-borne disease might be directly related to clinical Lyme disease in dogs and people.' As our studies are becoming of major interest to the mainstream scientific research community, the potential for positive impact on human and canine health continues to be explored.
"The Foundation's initial efforts have been with the Morris Animal Foundation and a study of Leishmaniasis. Through that study, it was found that the presence of tick-borne diseases significantly degrades a hounds ability to resist not only leishmaniasis, but also other diseases.
"In January 2019, we started a new study looking specifically at these tick-borne diseases in conjunction with the University of Iowa. In both studies, Dr. Christine Petersen is the lead investigative scientist.
"At the May MFHA Board of Directors Meeting, Dr. Petersen gave a report on the early stages of this new study. There was quite a bit of useful information that directly impacts our kennel operations."
Underscoring the importance of research in this area, background data include the following:
• Hounds without tick-borne infection live an average of two years longer
• Tick-borne co-infections can trigger progression of leishmaniasis and increase likelihood of death in Leishmania-infected hounds
• Working closely with hunting dogs increases human risk of tick exposure 5.8x – tick infections are dangerous to both dogs and their handlers
Tick-borne diseases have been found to increase the inflammatory process in dogs and therefore lower their resistance to illness. Dr. Petersen will examine whether a use of a specific vaccine to prevent tick-borne disease also prevents progression of Leishmaniasis. Fifty hunting dogs have already been enrolled in this study, which is expected to last two years.
The MFHA Foundation collaborates with many other organizations and individuals to provide information and programs designed to educate and inform the public about our sport, to promote the conservation of lands, facilitate the preservation of natural habitats, and to support and encourage research on health, welfare and training of hounds and horses. All of these initiatives underscore its mission of preserving mounted foxhunting for future generations.
"We are very proud of the Foundation's work in moving animal and potentially human heath forward," Twiggs said. "We hope everyone will continue to support the Foundation in these efforts."