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Keywords:

  • coronavirus;
  • herpesvirus;
  • management

Abstract

During the formulative stages of developing the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the cheetah, the impact of infectious disease upon its survival in captivity was of prime consideration, together with genetics, nutrition, physiology, and behavior. This paper summarizes the results of an infectious disease surveillance program, initially designed to monitor the infectious agents associated with clinically normal and clinically ill cheetahs in captivity, but subsequently supplemented with data from free-living cheetahs. The focus was on two viral infections, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and feline rhinotracheitis virus. Results indicated that between 1989 and 1991, there was an increase in the seroprevalence (number antibody-positive animals) of cheetahs to feline coronavirus from 41% to 64% in captivity. During this same time period, there were only two documented cases of FIP in cheetahs in the United States. The results suggest that feline coronavirus (feline enteric coronavirus--feline infectious peritonitis group) or a closely related coronavirus of cheetahs is becoming endemic in the captive cheetah population.

Further serologic results from 39 free-living cheetahs demonstrated that there was a high seroprevalence (61%) to feline coronavirus, although serum antibody titers were considerably lower than those encountered in captive cheetahs. The observation of a high percentage of free-living cheetahs, which were seropositive to feline herpesvirus (44%), was unexpected, since it has been generally regarded that this infection is primarily associated with cheetahs in captivity. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.