Prevalences of feline leukaemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus infections in cats in Sydney



Objective To determine prevalences of feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infections in ‘healthy’ cats that, through acute misadventure or other circumstance, were presented to veterinary practitioners. Prevalences of FeLV and FIV in this population were compared to those in a population of predominantly sick cats.

Design and procedures Serum specimens were obtained over a 2-year period from 200 cats oldeer than 1 year of age presented to veterinary clinics for routine procedures, including cat fight injuries or abscesses, vehicular trauma, neutering, dental scaling, vaccination, grooming or boarding. An additional 894 sera were obtained over approximately the same period from specimens submitted by veterinarians to a private clinical pathology laboratory, mainly from sick cats suspected of having immune dysfunction, but including some sera from healthy cats being screened prior to FeLV vaccination. FIV antibody and FeLV antigen were detected in samples using commercial enzyme immunoassays.

Results Amongst 200 ‘healthy’ cats, the prevalence of FeLV infection was 0 to 2%, and the prevalence of FIV was 6.5 to 7.5%, depending on the stringency of the criteria used to define positivity. FIV infection was significantly more prevalent in cats which resided in an inner city environment (P = 0.013). Of the 894 serum specimens submitted to the laboratory by practitioners, 11/761 (1.4%) were FeLV positive, while 148/711 (20.8%) were FIV positive. The prevalence of FIV was significantly higher in these predominantly ‘sick’ cats than in cats seen for routine veterinary procedures (P < 0.00001), while there was no difference in the prevalence of FeLV (P = 0.75)

Conclusions The prevalence of FeLV and FIV in healthy cats may have been substantially overestimated in some previous Australian surveys. FeLV infection would appear to be a rare cause of disease in Australian cats. The higher prevalence of FIV positivity in sick as opposed to healthy cats infers that FIV infection contributes to the development of disease.