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Vet Microbiol. 2009 Mar 2;134(3-4):208-17. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2008.08.011. Epub 2008 Aug 22.

Fecal shedding of infectious feline leukemia virus and its nucleic acids: a transmission potential.

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University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, 8057, Zurich, Switzerland.


Although it is assumed that fecal shedding of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) constitutes a transmission potential, no study has been performed showing that feces of infected cats can be a source of infection. In this study, we investigated fecal viral shedding of FeLV and its role in viral pathogenesis with the goal to improve infection control. FeLV RNA and DNA levels were determined in rectal swabs of experimentally infected cats by real-time PCR, and the results were correlated with proviral and viral loads in whole blood and plasma, respectively, and plasma p27 levels. All antigenemic cats shed FeLV RNA and DNA in feces. To determine whether the viral RNA detected was infectious, virus isolation from feces was also performed. Infectious virus was isolated from feces of antigenemic cats, and these results perfectly correlated with the isolation of virus from plasma. Naïve cats exposed to these feces seroconverted, showing that infection through feces took place, but remained negative for the presence of FeLV provirus and p27 in blood, an outcome so far not described. Some of the organs collected after euthanasia were provirus positive at low copy numbers. From these results it is concluded that fecal shedding of FeLV plays a role in transmission, but it is probably of secondary importance in viral pathogenesis. Nevertheless, sharing of litter pans by susceptible and viremic cats could increase the environmental infectious pressure and appropriate measures should be taken to avoid unnecessary viral exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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