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J Virol. Feb 1990; 64(2): 598–606.
PMCID: PMC249149

Feline leukemia virus infection as a potentiating cofactor for the primary and secondary stages of experimentally induced feline immunodeficiency virus infection.


Preexistent feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection greatly potentiated the severity of the transient primary and chronic secondary stages of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection. Of 10 FeLV-FIV carrier cats, 5 died of experimentally induced FIV infection, compared with 2 deaths in 10 cats infected only with FeLV and 1 death in 7 cats infected only with FIV. FIV-infected cats with preexistent FeLV infections developed severe depression, anorexia, fever, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, and leukopenia 4 to 6 weeks after infection and were moribund within 2 weeks of the onset of signs, whereas cats infected only with FIV developed much milder self-limiting gross and hematologic abnormalities. Pathologic findings in dually infected cats that died were similar to those observed previously in cats dying from uncomplicated primary FIV infection but were much more widespread and severe. Coinfection of asymptomatic FeLV carrier cats with FIV did not increase the levels of FeLV p27 antigen present in their blood over that seen in cats infected with FeLV alone. The amount of proviral FIV DNA was much higher, however, in dually infected cats than in cats infected only with FIV; there was a greater expression of FIV DNA in lymphoid tissues, where the genome was normally detected, and in nonlymphoid tissues, where FIV DNA was not usually found. Dually infedted cats that recovered from the primary stage of FIV infection remained more leukopenic than cats infected with FIV or FeLV alone, and their CD4+/CD8+ T-lymphocyte ratios were inverted. One of these cats developed what was considered to be an opportunistic infection. It was concluded, therefore, that a preexistent FeLV infection in some way enhanced the expression and spread of FIV in the body and increased the severity of both the resulting transient primary and chronic secondary stages of FIV infection. This study also demonstrated the usefulness of the FIV model in studying the role of incidental infectious diseases as cofactors for immunodeficiency-causing lentiviruses.

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