Morris commits $1.2 million to fight feline infectious peritonitis

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On Oct. 14, Morris Animal Foundation announced a major initiative to find treatments, a cure, or a preventive vaccine for a disease that kills thousands of cats every year—feline infectious peritonitis.

Morris has made a three-year, $1.2 million commitment to fund research that will advance understanding of FIP as well as dedicate resources to stop the disease, according to the announcement.

“Feline infectious peritonitis is an extraordinarily cruel disease, but one we believe science has a good chance of actually stopping,” said Dr. David Haworth, then president and chief executive officer of the foundation, in the announcement. “The investment Morris Animal Foundation is making in this effort is specifically designed to find new ways to treat, diagnose, prevent, and cure this deadly condition. There is so much work to be done, and this initiative is a great example of where concentrated funds can make a real impact.”

FIP is an inflammatory disease found in cats worldwide. It is fatal once a cat develops clinical signs. It has no treatment, cure, or preventive. The disease is caused by a mutated form of a common, highly contagious feline gastrointestinal coronavirus.

In addition, FIP is:

  • Difficult to diagnose, with nonspecific early signs of illness including loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, rough hair coat, and fever; later signs can include fluid accumulation in the abdomen, making breathing difficult.
  • A leading cause of death in kittens and young cats.
  • Most prevalent in indoor, multicat environments such as shelters and catteries.

The foundation solicited grant proposals from researchers worldwide. After a competitive review process, Morris selected the following proposals for funding:

  • Two genetic studies that focus on how viral mutations help the virus invade critical cells of the immune system.
  • Development of a novel vaccination strategy against feline enteric coronavirus, the nonlethal virus that can mutate into the FIP virus.
  • A clinical trial to investigate whether a novel antiviral drug can cure or greatly extend the lifespan and quality of life for cats infected with the FIP virus.
  • Investigation of two genetic mutations that may be a reliable indicator of FIP in cats and provide the basis for development of an accurate diagnostic test.