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FIV in African lions

Maas M, Keet DF, Rutten VP, Heesterbeek JA and Nielen M. Assessing the impact of feline immunodeficiency virus and bovine tuberculosis co-infection in African lions. Proceedings Biological sciences / The Royal Society. 2012; 279: 4206-14.

South Africa has about 2,700 free-ranging lions, living mostly around Kruger National Park (KNP). Bovine tuberculosis (BTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, is a disease that was introduced relatively recently into the KNP lion population, probably through domestic cattle brought by European settlers at the end of the 18th century. About 25 lions die of BTB every year in KNP.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infects domestic cats and at least 20 other species of non-domestic felids around the world. FIV subtype Ple is thought to have been endemic in lions for a much longer time than BTB and infection is common. There is concern that these infections, especially when they occur together, may increase disease and affect lion conservation programs. These researchers collected data from lions in KNP from 1993-2008. BTB was more common in lions in the south of KNP than the north, but infection rate increased over time in the north. A large percentage (31%) of lions were infected with both pathogens. Both infections caused changes in blood test results, with FIV having a greater impact than BTB. However, it did not appear that these co-infections were synergistic (i.e., making disease worse), unlike the situation in humans infected with HIV and M. tuberculosis. This may be due to a different pathogenesis of FIV in African lions than HIV in humans. [MK]

See also: Troyer JL, Roelke ME, Jespersen JM, et al. FIV diversity: FIV Ple subtype composition may influence disease outcome in African lions. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011; 143: 338-46. [Free, full text article]