Feline Leukemia Information

Rachel Caspi rcaspi at helix.nih.gov
Sat Dec 3 16:52:16 EST 1994

In article <3bo7oc$imi at newsbf01.news.aol.com>, iclarius at aol.com (IClarius)

> My son is writing a report for 9th grade biology and needs information on
> Feline Leukemia. He has reviewed all the library material at school and
> our local libraries but has only been able to find 3 paragraphs of info.
> Any info would be greatly appreicated.
> thank you,
> iclarius

The following is an excerpt from a FAQ document about cats. Unfortunately,
it is also 3 paragraphs, but hopefully will add some information to what
you already have. One more option you might try is a good cat care book,
available at your local petstore. 

G.  Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).

Also a retrovirus, Feline Leukemia is fatal and usually fairly
quickly, within three to four years and often less.  There is a small
percentage, ~4%, who are apparently immune and live with FeLV with no
side effects (except that they are carriers and may infect other
cats).  There is a vaccination for this disease.

FeLV is spread mainly by saliva, nose mucous and maybe urine.  It is
fairly fragile away from cats' bodily fluids,,so transmission by
humans (on boots, etc.) are not likely.  A latent cat probably needs
to become viremic (positive test) before it can infect other cats,
*unless* it is a queen nursing kittens.  The ELISA test has a
significant false postive rate, depending on fluid tested.  The IFA
test correlates better with actual virus isolation from tested cats.
The best way to reduce risk is to keep negative cats away from
positive cats.

The virus can affect a lot of tissues, but tends to be most notorious
for causing cancer of lymphocytes, neutrophiles, platelet precursors,
in fact nearly all cellular constituants of the blood.  These cancers
arise from the similar ability to hide out for a long latency in the
body, but the FeLV virus "irritates" blood forming cells, causing them
to do strange things (become cancerous).  Very generally, symptoms of
FeLV infection can range from none (some few recover) to very sick.
The symptoms depend on which cell line is being attacked.  Treatment
is similarly complicated, ranging from antivirals to anticancer drugs,
and other drugs thrown in to manage infections and side effects.

Immunoregulin has been used with some success in treating cats with
this disease.

Rachel R. Caspi, Ph.D.                           phone: 301-496-6409 
Laboratory of Immunology, NEI                           301-496-6394 
NIH Building 10, Room 10N222                     fax:   301-402-0485 
Bethesda, Maryland 20892                 email: rcaspi at helix.nih.gov 

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