Feline Tritrichomonas foetus (TF) infection is a significant clinical problem. The infection is prevalent among pedigreed cats where it causes chronic large bowel diarrhea. Ronidazole, identified as effective in clearing infection, is expensive, potentially toxic, and may fail to cure some cats, making eradication of TF from a cattery extremely difficult. In cattle, TF is a venereal disease, where treatment failure is common and attributed to seclusion of the infection in the bulls’ genitalia. We have observed that treatment failure in cats appears to be more common in males and were able to amplify TF DNA from the epididymis of a male cat with intestinal infection. This study will determine if the reproductive tract serves as a reservoir for TF in populations of cats at high risk for intestinal infection. We will examine the reproductive tract of 100 cats undergoing spay or neuter by offering about 2,500 cattery owners free fecal TF PCR testing for any cat from which we receive both a fecal and reproductive tract specimen.
Specimens will be tested for TF DNA by single-tube nested PCR. Housekeeping PCR reactions for bacterial 16S and GAPDH will be used to evaluate for fecal contamination of reproductive specimens (false+) or PCR inhibitors (false-). TF organisms will be identified in PCR+ samples by immunostaining tissues with TF-specific antibodies.
Venereal involvement in feline TF may explain examples of treatment failure and high prevalence of disease in breeding programs and has significant implications for the design of effective treatment and prevention strategies.