FIP are just about the three worst letters a cat guardian can hear. Feline Infectious Peritonitis is caused by a coronavirus that 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 the ages of 3-5.

While there have been research breakthroughs in the past, nobody has been able to come up with a treatment for this fatal disease. However, a new research project at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University has been successful in developing an antiviral compound against the corona virus that causes FIP. Yunjeong Kim, an associate professor in the college’s diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department, has worked with collaborators in diverse fields to develop this compound.

FIP tends to progress very rapidly. It has been unknown whether antiviral drug treatment can reverse the progression. The results of the study showed that inhibiting viral replication is the key to the treatment of FIP.

“This is the first time we showed experimental evidence of successful treatment of laboratory cats at an advanced clinical stage of FIP,” Kim said. “The knowledge gained from this study is a step forward to understanding the pathogenesis of FIP and other coronavirus infections important in humans and animals,” Kim added. “since it is the first report on the effective antiviral drug for coronavirus infection in a natural host, it has implications for developing effective treatment measures for other coronavirus infections, including human coronaviruses.”

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

It’s important to understand that while this is a major development in the battle to find a cure for FIP, this treatment is probably still a long way away from being available in anything but a research setting.

“The next step will be finding out how effective this antiviral treatment is for cats with naturally acquired FIP showing various clinical symptoms,” Kim said. “We received funding from Morris Animal Foundation to conduct a clinical trial on cats with naturally acquired FIP and viral resistance study.”

The current published work has been funded by NIH, Winn Feline Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation and the Global Food Systems program at Kansas State University.

For more information about the study, please visit the Kansas State University website.

Graph via Kansas State University website

13 Comments on Researchers Pave Way to Identify Antiviral Treatment for FIP

  1. I lost my cat to this disease and was terrified I’d lose the others too. It was so swift and he was gone before I could process it. Praying for a cure all the time

  2. I must admit, I am disturbed by the fact that they are intentionally infecting these lab cats for their research. I know some would say there is the benefit that this article describes, but I don’t see why they can use “naturally infected” cats for their research.

    • I don’t see any mention of cats being intentionally infected in this study, Nora. The article states that they will be testing the efficacy of the treatment in naturally infected cats.

  3. We had one 4-month-old kitten die from FIP, 10 years ago. (The diagnosis was made at the autopsy.) We were told that we would lose, at least, half of our, then, 35 cats to the disease because they were likely infected. We were devastated.

    Luckily, we didn’t lose a single more cat. I just want to tell cat owners who hear this diagnosis not to despair, at least not for their other cats.

    And with all diseases affecting the immune system, I would try Essiac tea. If it won’t help, it won’t harm.

  4. Ingrid,

    Excellent article. Want to keep our younger feline children in good health. One never knows how soon the vaccine will be found. Even though the article stated a long time.

  5. My sister lost her favorite kitty of all time to FIP. Praying they find the answers to treat this.

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