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Discovery offers hope against deadly cat virus

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Posted June 25, 2013
A coronavirus (red) infects intestinal cells (gray).

A coronavirus (red) infects intestinal cells (gray).

What makes a harmless virus turn lethal? For the deadliest infectious disease in cats, Cornell scientists now know.

 After gathering the world’s largest sample collection for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), they uncovered the holy grail of a 30-year quest for the mutation that turns it fatal. Scheduled to be published in Emerging Infectious Disease in July 2013, their study provides a long-sought breakthrough, opening the door to development of the first working diagnostics, vaccines and treatments for FIP.

Dramatic and usually fatal, FIP develops when feline enteric coronavirus (FECV), a common benign intestinal virus, mutates into the malignant FIPV virus. Discovered by a Cornell veterinarian in 1963, this mutant moves from intestinal cells to white blood cells called macrophages. Traveling through the body, it kills most cats within weeks. Kittens are particularly vulnerable, especially in shelters and catteries. Current tests cannot distinguish between the common FECV and the killer FIPV. There are no effective vaccines or therapies.

“FIP is a tragic disease for families falling in love with new kittens and for veterinarians who can do nothing to stop it,” said Gary Whittaker, virology professor at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Comparing viral genetics, our lab found exactly what changes when FECV mutates into FIPV. This knowledge will prove pivotal in developing tests, vaccines and treatments to protect cats from this devastating disease.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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