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Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 1996 Sep;3(5):554-62.

Prevalence of antibodies to feline parvovirus, calicivirus, herpesvirus, coronavirus, and immunodeficiency virus and of feline leukemia virus antigen and the interrelationship of these viral infections in free-ranging lions in east Africa.

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Department of Internal Veterinary Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


While viral infections and their impact are well studied in domestic cats, only limited information is available on their occurrence in free-ranging lions. The goals of the present study were (i) to investigate the prevalence of antibodies to feline calicivirus (FCV), herpesvirus (FHV), coronavirus (FCoV), parvovirus (FPV), and immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) antigen in 311 serum samples collected between 1984 and 1991 from lions inhabiting Tanzania's national parks and (ii) to evaluate the possible biological importance and the interrelationship of these viral infections. Antibodies to FCV, never reported previously in free-ranging lions, were detected in 70% of the sera. In addition, a much higher prevalence of antibodies to FCoV (57%) was found than was previously reported in Etosha National Park and Kruger National Park. Titers ranged from 25 to 400. FeLV antigen was not detectable in any of the serum samples. FCoV, FCV, FHV, and FIV were endemic in the Serengeti, while a transient elevation of FPV titers pointed to an outbreak of FPV infection between 1985 and 1987. Antibody titers to FPV and FCV were highly prevalent in the Serengeti (FPV, 75%; FCV, 67%) but not in Ngorongoro Crater (FPV, 27%; FCV, 2%). These differences could be explained by the different habitats and biological histories of the two populations and by the well-documented absence of immigration of lions from the Serengeti plains into Ngorongoro Crater after 1965. These observations indicate that, although the pathological potential of these viral infections seemed not to be very high in free-ranging lions, relocation of seropositive animals by humans to seronegative lion populations must be considered very carefully.

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