According to analyses, thousands of cats in Cyprus have died since the beginning of the year due to an animal coronavirus that has become more aggressive. Great Britain also reported its first imported case in October - is there a risk of the modified pathogen spreading in cats in Germany too?
“There are currently no outbreaks of disease described in Germany that would lead to suspicion of this new virus variant,” said Katrin Hartmann from the small animal clinic at the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich. However, there is a risk from importing infected cats. "The current cases in England are attributed to the importation of cats from Cyprus." Cyprus has a large population of homeless cats, which, like southern European street dogs, are often taken to other parts of Europe and around the world.
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal disease in cats if left untreated, as Hartmann explains. It is a disease that has long been known worldwide and is caused by the feline coronavirus (FCoV). This pathogen also occurs in Germany, but it usually causes no symptoms or at most mild diarrhea. Rarely, the harmless virus changes spontaneously and the cat becomes ill with FIP. According to the specialist veterinarian, the first non-specific symptoms such as loss of appetite and fever are then followed by effusions, for example in the abdominal and chest cavities (fluid accumulations), as well as sometimes neurological symptoms and eye problems.
Mixture of FCoV and canine coronavirus
A new virus, called feline coronavirus-23 (FCoV-23), has now been detected in Cyprus and Great Britain. It is a mixture of the original FCoV and the canine coronavirus CCoV, a research team led by Christine Tait-Burkard from the University of Edinburgh recently reported in a study that has not yet been independently verified. The virus is likely transmitted directly from cat to cat, spreads quickly and infects cats of all ages. Above all, according to current knowledge, cats with the new variant develop feline infectious peritonitis much more frequently, as Hartmann said.
In Cyprus, the use of the human coronavirus drug molnupiravir to treat cats with FIP was approved in August. The antiviral agent GS-441524 has also proven to be very effective in studies, explained Hartmann. "So far, the drug in question has not been approved in Germany and cannot be obtained legally here either." Only its use in the context of studies is currently possible - one is currently underway at the LMU's small animal clinic. It is important to start therapy early in order to be able to heal the sick cat.