Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (Feline T-lymphotropic Virus Infection)

*A retrovirus similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) but not infectious for humans.

Distribution -

Worldwide, with about 1 - 3 % of the cat population infected.

Mode of Infection and Transmission -

Free-roaming male cats are at greatest risk of FIV infection. The principal mode of transmission would seem to be bites. Pregnant queens may transmit the virus to fetuses and also via colostrum. The virus is present in saliva, blood and cerebrospinal fluid.

Clinical Features -

In general, the disease resembles AIDS and cats with FIV infection are particularly prone to opportunistic infections because of the suppression of the immune system. Following infection there is a short transient period characterized by fever, and lymphadenopathy. Most cats recover from this phase and the infection may be dormant for months or years prior to immunodeficiency. Many other disorders may be contracted after these initial stages.

Diagnosis -

Given the great variation in clinical manifestations and signs, a reliable diagnosis of FIV infection can only be made by serologic means or virus isolation and identification; however, the latter is impracticable.

Treatment -

Treatment of FIV infection with the antiviral drugs that have shown some promise in the treatment of human HIV infection is still in the experimental stage. Interferon alpha given orally is reported to be beneficial. Symptomatic therapy with transfusions, fluids and antimicrobial drugs are usually employed. In spite of therapy, cats that develop clinical disease usually succumb within two years

Control -

It is advisable to isolate infected cats from other cats and keep them indoors. Uninfected cats kept indoors are less likely to become infected. An inactivated vaccine is available. Three doses are given three weeks apart to cats negative for FIV antibodies. At present, vaccinal antibodies are not distinguishable from those resulting from infection.