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FeLV Shedding in Feces

Gomes-Keller, M. A., E. Gonczi, et al. (2009). “Fecal shedding of infectious feline leukemia virus and its nucleic acids: a transmission potential.” Vet Microbiol 134(3-4): 208-17.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an important pathogen of cats that is associated with cancer and immunodeficiency. Transmission of the virus occurs primarily via saliva. These investigators examined fecal shedding of the virus by testing for viral RNA and DNA, as well as by virus cultivation from rectal swabs of infected cats. They found that cats testing positive using common in-clinic test kits for FeLV antigen also shed virus in feces, and the majority of them were infectious to other cats. None of these FeLV-shedding cats showed any gastrointestinal signs of disease. However, it appears that the viral load in feces is small, and while it did lead to exposure and antibody production against the virus in uninfected cats in contact with virus-positive feces, these cats did not become antigen-positive on in-clinic test kits. Viral genetic material was found in tissues from a minority of these exposed cats, indicating transmission via feces is possible. While secondary to saliva as a means of virus spread, these results indicate that sharing of litter pans between infected and susceptible cats does bear some risk for transmission of FeLV. [MK]
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Related articles:
Gomes-Keller, M. A., R. Tandon, et al. (2006). “Shedding of feline leukemia virus RNA in saliva is a consistent feature in viremic cats.” Vet Microbiol 112(1): 11-21.
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Levy, J., C. Crawford, et al. (2008). “2008 American Association of Feline Practitioners’ feline retrovirus management guidelines.” Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery 10(3): 300-316.
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