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

10 Comments on New Discovery Offers Hope Against Deadly FIP Virus

  1. We took on a cat last year who has suspected FIP but not (yet) definite; know it takes a while to develop but so far so good – only indication to give the vets a clue was the fact his left eye which previously had been perfect suddenly went “blind”; one vet wanted to remove the eye to “make sure” – which I didn’t allow… it seemed pointless – even if it was confirmed nothing could be done about it, so – Bertie remains with one very good eye – and one vet has even dismissed the FIP idea saying he could well have lost the sight fighting another cat, which could be possible, as he’s a bit of a fighter. Taken him on after thoughtless (but not, I think intentional) neglect by previous owner, and although our three other cats like him not, he seems to thrive and be happy enough in his own way. And if he’s happy…then so are we. Interesting article all the same and even a glimmer of hope for this fatal illness is better than nothing at all.

  2. It seems to be moving slowly. One of my cats may have FIP. Or he may have lymphoma or mylenoma or a fungal infection. Diagnostics is very frustrating. Anyway, Cornell is still collecting samples from cats with suspected FIP as well as their healthy housemates/littermates. It is free of cost to the owner. Just putting this out there in case anyone is unfortunate enough to have a cat with FIP.

  3. This is really exciting news. I cannot count how many cats I have lost to FIP over the years. I anxiously wait to hear more about it.

  4. I am so over the moon at this. I so hope it leads to treatments quickly.. I lost a kitty to it 11 years ago, and my heart aches for him all the time.

  5. This will be amazing if they can help the kitties. I lost my elderly last year to this. It was awful to watch a healthy cat get sick.

  6. Thank you, Ingrid, for informing us about this research. I subscribe to Cornell’s “CatWatch” newsletter and I hope they write about their findings soon.

  7. Over the years I’ve been active on the About Cats forum I can’t count the number of forum cats who have succumbed to FIP. I hope this discovery eventually results in a cure or prevention or both.

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