FIP are the three worst letters a cat guardian can hear. Feline Infectious Peritonitis is caused by a coronavirus and affects the cells of the intestinal tract. The corona virus in itself is a common virus in cats, and cats may not even show symptoms other than perhaps a mild gastrointestinal upset. But for reasons that have eluded researchers so far, in some cats, the benign virus mutates into a highly infectious version that then causes FIP. It usually affects kittens and young cats, and it’s virtually 100% fatal. FIP kills as many as 1 in 100 to 1 in 300 cats under ages 3-5.
After three decades of research, a breakthrough
Researchers at Cornell had a breakthrough after 30 years of research when they discovered what causes the mutation that makes the common corona virus fatal. “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.”
Scientists have searched for this mutation for the last three decades. Part of the challenge, Whittaker said, might have been the scale at which they searched. Like flu viruses, coronaviruses code genes with RNA. RNA-based viruses make many mistakes when replicating, allowing them to quickly mutate, dodge vaccines and therapeutics, and move to new territory. Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle.
This exciting discovery may be the first real hope in the battle against this devastating, deadly disease. We’ll be watching this story closely, and bring you the latest information as it becomes available.
The research was funded by Cornell’s Feline Health Center, the Winn Feline Foundation and the Morris Animal Foundation. You can help researchers find a cure for FIP by contributing financially to all three organizations.
Photo: Public Domain Photos