The Diagnosis of Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) Infection in Owned and Group-Housed Rescue Cats in Australia.

Affiliation

Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, 2006 NSW, Australia. [Email]

Abstract

A field study was undertaken to (i) measure the prevalence of feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) exposure and FeLV infection in a cross-section of healthy Australian pet cats; and (ii) investigate the outcomes following natural FeLV exposure in two Australian rescue facilities. Group 1 (n = 440) consisted of healthy client-owned cats with outdoor access, predominantly from eastern Australia. Groups 2 (n = 38) and 3 (n = 51) consisted of a mixture of healthy and sick cats, group-housed in two separate rescue facilities in Sydney, Australia, tested following identification of index cases of FeLV infection in cats sourced from these facilities. Diagnostic testing for FeLV exposure/infection included p27 antigen testing using three different point-of-care FeLV kits and a laboratory-based ELISA, real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) testing to detect FeLV proviral DNA in leukocytes, real-time reverse-transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) testing to detect FeLV RNA in plasma, and neutralising antibody (NAb) testing. Cats were classified as FeLV-uninfected (FeLV-unexposed and presumptively FeLV-abortive infections) or FeLV-infected (presumptively regressive and presumptively progressive infections). In Group 1, 370 FeLV-unexposed cats (370/440, 84%), 47 abortive infections (47/440, 11%), nine regressive infections (9/440, 2%), and two progressive infections (2/440, 0.5%) were identified, and 12 FeLV-uninfected cats (12/440, 3%) were unclassifiable as FeLV-unexposed or abortive infections due to insufficient samples available for NAb testing. In Groups 2 and 3, 31 FeLV-unexposed cats (31/89, 35%), eight abortive infections (8/89, 9%), 22 regressive infections (22/89; 25%), and 19 progressive infections (19/89; 21%) were discovered, and nine FeLV-uninfected cats (9/89; 10%) were unclassifiable due to insufficient samples available for NAb testing. One of the presumptively progressively-infected cats in Group 3 was likely a focal FeLV infection. Two other presumptively progressively-infected cats in Group 3 may have been classified as regressive infections with repeated testing, highlighting the difficulties associated with FeLV diagnosis when sampling cats at a single time point, even with results from a panel of FeLV tests. These results serve as a reminder to Australian veterinarians that the threat of FeLV to the general pet cat population remains high, thus vigilant FeLV testing, separate housing for FeLV-infected cats, and FeLV vaccination of at-risk cats is important, particularly in group-housed cats in shelters and rescue facilities, where outbreaks of FeLV infection can occur.

Keywords

Australia,FeLV diagnosis,PCR,antigen testing,cats,feline leukaemia virus,veterinary science,

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