A Major Breakthrough In FIP Pathogenesis
A 30 year quest led researchers at Cornell University in 2013 to locate a major mutation that causes benign feline coronavirus (FECV) to change into deadly feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV). Winn funding in 2011 for the study W11-008 titled "Evolution of feline infectious peritonitis within FIP cats and tissue specific adaptation of the virus to activating proteases" was an integral part of this major discovery.
Dr. Gary Whittaker of the Whittaker Laboratory stated, "Comparing viral genetics, our lab found exactly what changes when FECV mutates into FIPV. Knowing this will prove pivotal in developing tests, vaccines, and treatments to protect cats from this devastating disease."
In looking at the location of particular cellular proteases (enzymes that activate the virus by cutting a specific viral protein) in the mild FECV virus from the deadly FIPV, Dr. Whittaker found a distinct set of differences in the spike proteins and the gene that codes them. Therefore how the virus switches from infecting intestinal cells to infecting macrophages, leading to a more systemic infection.
PCR testing has been developed to detect the spike (S) gene mutation aiding in the diagnosis of FIP in cats.