Researchers find antiviral treatment for feline infectious peritonitis

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Researchers have found an antiviral treatment for feline infectious peritonitis, which is currently nearly 100 percent fatal.

Dr. Yunjeong Kim, an associate professor at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, worked with collaborators to develop an antiviral compound for the feline coronavirus associated with FIP. Her article, “Reversal of the progression of fatal coronavirus infection in cats by a broad-spectrum coronavirus protease inhibitor,” appeared March 30 in PLOS Pathogens, an online journal of the Public Library of Science.

An antiviral compound, shown in red, is bound to coronavirus protease, shown in teal. Coronavirus protease plays an essential role in virus replication. The antiviral compound inhibits the function of viral protease by binding to the active site, leading to failed virus replication. (Courtesy of Kansas State University)

According to the study abstract, “Feline enteric coronavirus (FECV) causes inapparent or mild enteritis in cats, but a highly fatal disease, called feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), can arise through mutation of FECV to FIP virus (FIPV). The pathogenesis of FIP is intimately associated with immune responses and involves depletion of T cells, features shared by some other coronaviruses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. The increasing risks of highly virulent coronavirus infections in humans or animals call for effective antiviral drugs, but no such measures are yet available.”

The researchers previously had reported on inhibitors that target 3C-like protease with broad-spectrum activity against important human and animal coronaviruses. In this study, the researchers evaluated the therapeutic efficacy of a 3CLpro inhibitor in laboratory cats with FIP. According to the abstract, “We found that antiviral treatment led to full recovery of cats when treatment was started at a stage of disease that would be otherwise fatal if left untreated.”

The abstract concludes, “These findings may provide important insights into devising therapeutic strategies and selection of antiviral compounds for further development for important coronaviruses in animals and humans.”

The study is available here.

Related JAVMA content:

Morris commits $1.2 million to fight feline infectious peritonitis (Dec. 1, 2015)