Feline Coronaviruses (FCoV) are found in the intestines of most pet cats, causing few problems. Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, they can move into immune cells in the blood and mutate, causing Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Sadly, FIP affects 5-10% of pet cats, especially young pedigree cats and cats in rescue centers. Until very recently it was invariably fatal.
FIP is an enigmatic and challenging disease; in addition to its cause being poorly understood, it is difficult to reliably diagnose and, until recently, it responded poorly to all treatments. However, COVID-19 resulted in the development of Remdesivir, and a related drug, GS-441524, and these drugs appear to be remarkably effective, curing >70% of cats with FIP after 12-weeks of treatment in preliminary studies. A definitive diagnosis is now ever more important.
Accurate diagnosis has long been a holy grail for FIP research: we aim to i) look at the profile of certain proteins in the blood (known as acute-phase proteins or APP) which increase in response to infection ii) while also taking a first look at the potential role of micro-RNA (miRNA) signatures, which may prove to be a sensitive new test.
It is hoped that this study will enable us to understand FIP more fully and diagnose it more accurately. We also hope to recognize which profiles suggest a cat will respond well to treatment, and which will not, saving them from the distress of having FIP and the potential discomfort of a treatment that will not help.