Viral mutation related to deadly cat disease

Published on August 21, 2013
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​Recent research findings suggest that a viral mutation is connected with the development of a benign intestinal coronavirus into a pathogen deadly to cats.

The results published in July (Emerg Infect Dis 2013;19:1066-1073) indicate that researchers at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine believe the mutation in feline enteric coronavirus’ spike proteins is connected with development of feline infectious peritonitis. The researchers think the findings could be used toward developing diagnostic, prevention, and treatment measures against those coronaviruses’ malignant forms, which kill their feline hosts.

The change occurs following interaction between the virus’ spike proteins and macrophages.

Dr. Gary Whittaker, a virology professor at the veterinary college, said in a university announcement that FIP is tragic “for families falling in love with new kittens and veterinarians who can do nothing to stop it,” and that it was the university researchers who found the mutation that occurs in the transition of the enteric coronavirus from benign to pathogenic.

The announcement indicates researchers have tried to identify the mutation during the past three decades.
The article, “Mutation in Spike Protein Cleavage Site and Pathogenesis of Feline Coronavirus,” is also available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.