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Open AccessArticle

The Diagnosis of Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) Infection in Owned and Group-Housed Rescue Cats in Australia

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Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, 2006 NSW, Australia
2
Centre for Veterinary Education, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, 2006 NSW, Australia
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Clinical Laboratory and Centre for Clinical Studies, Vetsuisse Faculty, The University of Zurich, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland
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Small Animal Specialist Hospital, 1 Richardson Place, North Ryde, Sydney, 2113 NSW, Australia
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Pymble Veterinary Clinic, West Pymble, 2073 NSW, Australia
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PetCure, Glebe, 2037 NSW, Australia
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Veterinary Diagnostic Services, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland G61 1QH, UK
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Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Camden, 2570 NSW, Australia
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MRC—University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, Scotland G61 1QH, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Viruses 2019, 11(6), 503; https://doi.org/10.3390/v11060503
Received: 24 April 2019 / Revised: 21 May 2019 / Accepted: 29 May 2019 / Published: 31 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feline Viruses and Viral Diseases)
A field study was undertaken to (i) measure the prevalence of feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) exposure and FeLV infection in a cross-section of healthy Australian pet cats; and (ii) investigate the outcomes following natural FeLV exposure in two Australian rescue facilities. Group 1 (n = 440) consisted of healthy client-owned cats with outdoor access, predominantly from eastern Australia. Groups 2 (n = 38) and 3 (n = 51) consisted of a mixture of healthy and sick cats, group-housed in two separate rescue facilities in Sydney, Australia, tested following identification of index cases of FeLV infection in cats sourced from these facilities. Diagnostic testing for FeLV exposure/infection included p27 antigen testing using three different point-of-care FeLV kits and a laboratory-based ELISA, real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) testing to detect FeLV proviral DNA in leukocytes, real-time reverse-transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) testing to detect FeLV RNA in plasma, and neutralising antibody (NAb) testing. Cats were classified as FeLV-uninfected (FeLV-unexposed and presumptively FeLV-abortive infections) or FeLV-infected (presumptively regressive and presumptively progressive infections). In Group 1, 370 FeLV-unexposed cats (370/440, 84%), 47 abortive infections (47/440, 11%), nine regressive infections (9/440, 2%), and two progressive infections (2/440, 0.5%) were identified, and 12 FeLV-uninfected cats (12/440, 3%) were unclassifiable as FeLV-unexposed or abortive infections due to insufficient samples available for NAb testing. In Groups 2 and 3, 31 FeLV-unexposed cats (31/89, 35%), eight abortive infections (8/89, 9%), 22 regressive infections (22/89; 25%), and 19 progressive infections (19/89; 21%) were discovered, and nine FeLV-uninfected cats (9/89; 10%) were unclassifiable due to insufficient samples available for NAb testing. One of the presumptively progressively-infected cats in Group 3 was likely a focal FeLV infection. Two other presumptively progressively-infected cats in Group 3 may have been classified as regressive infections with repeated testing, highlighting the difficulties associated with FeLV diagnosis when sampling cats at a single time point, even with results from a panel of FeLV tests. These results serve as a reminder to Australian veterinarians that the threat of FeLV to the general pet cat population remains high, thus vigilant FeLV testing, separate housing for FeLV-infected cats, and FeLV vaccination of at-risk cats is important, particularly in group-housed cats in shelters and rescue facilities, where outbreaks of FeLV infection can occur. View Full-Text
Keywords: veterinary science; feline leukaemia virus; FeLV diagnosis; antigen testing; PCR; cats; Australia veterinary science; feline leukaemia virus; FeLV diagnosis; antigen testing; PCR; cats; Australia
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Westman, M.; Norris, J.; Malik, R.; Hofmann-Lehmann, R.; Harvey, A.; McLuckie, A.; Perkins, M.; Schofield, D.; Marcus, A.; McDonald, M.; Ward, M.; Hall, E.; Sheehy, P.; Hosie, M. The Diagnosis of Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) Infection in Owned and Group-Housed Rescue Cats in Australia. Viruses 2019, 11, 503.

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