Study Finds High Prevalence Of Retrovirus Infection Among Cats With Oral Disease

Feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus is significantly higher in feline oral disease patients.


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The prevalence of feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus is significantly higher in feline oral disease patients than it is in the general cat population, according to the findings of a new study.

Sponsored by Idexx Laboratories Inc. of Westbrook, Maine, the study screened 8,982 orally diseased cats between January and April of 2006. Of these cats, 1,276 were retrovirus-positive, a 14.2 percent prevalence. According to the researchers, cats with gingivitis and stomatitis exhibited 14.3 percent and 23.9 percent prevalence of retroviral infection, respectively.

Other recent studies have found the nationwide prevalence of FeLV and FIV in the general cat population to be about 3.3 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, the researchers report.

“The clinical significance of these results has far-reaching implications,” says Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, Dipl. ABVP, one of the study’s authors. “It is generally believed that feline gingivitis is related to an immune response to plaque and bacteria, while gingivostomatitis is probably a multifactoral disease in which most patients have elevated calicivirus titers.

“Illness in retrovirus-infected cats is often secondary disease acquired because of immunosuppression and not a direct effect of the retrovirus infection,” Dr. Bellows adds. “Both FeLV and FIV are immunosuppressive diseases, and although there are differences due to the direct specific effects of each virus, the majority of health problems in retrovirus-positive cats are due to secondary diseases associated with immunosuppression.”

With the new study’s findings in mind, Bellows says that FIV and FeLV testing in all cats presented to veterinarians for oral disease with an unknown retroviral status is appropriate.

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