FIP or feline infectious peritonitis is actually not an infectious disease, despite its name. However, the corona virus which mutates in some cats into FIP, is very infectious.
If there is no enteric corona virus, there’s no FIP. No one knows why most cats are able to easily fend of the relatively benign corona virus suffering no apparent symptoms or mild symptoms, while in other cats the benign corona virus transforms inside the cat into one of two types of the nearly always fatal immune-mediated and nearly always fatal FIP.
It appears that new research at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University has been successful in treating FIP.
Yunjeong Kim, a associate professor in the college’s diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department, has worked with collaborators in diverse fields to develop an antiviral compound for feline coronavirus associated with FIP.
Her article, “Reversal of the Progression of Fatal Coronavirus Infection in Cats by a Broad-Spectrum Coronavirus Protease Inhibitor,” was published this March in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
Since FIP disease progression can be rapid and the pathogenesis of FIP is primarily immune-mediated, it has been unknown whether antiviral drug treatment alone can be effective at reversing disease progression in an infected cat. The results of the study showed that inhibiting viral replication is the key to the treatment of FIP.
Kim said, “This is the first time we showed experimental evidence of successful treatment of laboratory cats at an advanced clinical stage of FIP,” Kim said.
Since FIP is a deadly disease, there have been many efforts to develop effective treatments for it, but none has been proven successful.
“The knowledge gained from this study is a step forward to understanding the pathogenesis of FIP and other coronavirus infections important in humans and animals,” Kim said. “Also, since it is the first report on the effective antiviral drug for coronavirus infection in a natural host, it has implications for developing effective treatment measures for other coronavirus infections, including human coronaviruses.”
One of coronavirus infections that shares similar characteristics with FIP is Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, virus. MERS is an emerging coronavirus infections in humans, which was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It could that Kim’s work might even help to unleash mysteries involving MERS.
MERS is complex and not fully understood; for example, camels may transmit the disease to people. According to the World Health organization, approximately 36 per cent of reported patients with MERS die (It’s unclear how many reported patients there are). While MERS has been mostly associated with the Middle East, in 2015 there was an outbreak in South Korea. There is a potential for a future outbreak to occur about anywhere.
FIP most often occurs where there are high corona virus numbers, in social groups of cats such as catteries or animal shelters, or even colonies outdoors. FIP is responsible for the death of 1 in 100 to 300 cats (mostly kittens) annually.
Kim has been working with a multidisciplinary team to develop protease inhibitors for FIP. Niels Pedersen, University of California, Davis and Kim have been working together since 2013. William Groutas, Wichita State University, and Duy Hua, Kansas State University, both medicinal chemists, and Kyeong-Ok Chang, Kansas State University, a virologist, have been working together since 2010 to develop antiviral compounds for various viruses.
The FIP research may help people (with MERS), the current published work has been funded by NIH, as well as the Morris Animal Foundation and the Global Food Systems program at Kansas State University. The Winn Feline Foundation has been a particularly effective longtime funder and supporter of projects related to FIP, via the Bria Fund.