Newly found virus linked to fatal kidney disorder in cats

Newly found virus linked to fatal kidney disorder in cats

Scientists have discovered a new virus which they say may be one of the causes of a potentially fatal kidney disease in pet cats.

The disease called tubulointerstitial nephritis inflames the spaces between the kidney tubules that carry fluid for filtration inside the organ. In humans many factors can cause the condition, from infections to autoimmune disorders to certain medications. But in cats, the cause is rarely known.

Now, researchers in Hong Kong believe they have found at least one culprit — a virus dubbed feline morbillivirus which is linked to measles and mumps. A dog version of this virus causes distemper, which manifests as vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing and deadly neurological symptoms.

“All dogs are vaccinated against the canine distemper virus, because the dog morbillivirus can cause very severe disease in dogs with fever, pneumonia, brain infection,
immunosuppression and rash,” study researcher Kwok-Yung Yuen told LiveScience.
“Despite the close relationship between dog, cat and human, no morbillivirus is found in cats yet. And one of top causes of death in cases due to nephritis leading to kidney failure is quite unknown.”

For their study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Yuen and his colleagues went looking for this elusive cat morbillivirus, figuring that if viruses in this family could infect dogs and humans, they would likely show up in cats.
They were right. Of the 457 stray cats from Hong Kong and mainland China tested, 12.3 per cent (56 animals) carried the virus. A total of 27.8 per cent had antibodies to the virus, meaning they had been infected at some point in their lives.

The researchers then conducted autopsies and post-mortem exams on 27 deceased stray cats. They found tubulointerstitial nephritis in seven of the 12 stray cats with evidence of feline morbillivirus infection. Of the 15 uninfected cats, only two had kidney damage.

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