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Morris Animal Foundation launches $1.2 million initiative to fight deadly disease of cats


Media Contact:
Carol Borchert, 303.708.3418
cborchert@morrisanimalfoundation.org

Morris Animal Foundation, a global leader in supporting scientific research that advances the health and well-being of animals worldwide, has announced a major initiative to find a cure, treatments and/or vaccine for a disease that kills thousands of cats every year – feline infectious peritonitis.

“Feline infectious peritonitis is an extraordinarily cruel disease, but one we believe science has a good chance of actually stopping,” said Dr. David Haworth, president/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “The investment Morris Animal Foundation is making in this effort is specifically designed to find new ways to treat, diagnose, prevent and cure this deadly condition. There is so much work to be done, and this initiative is a great example of where concentrated funds can make a real impact.”

FIP is a 100-percent fatal disease of cats once they show clinical signs, it is difficult to diagnosis, and has no treatment, cure or preventive. The disease is caused by a coronavirus, a family of viruses that also cause Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome in people. In cats, feline infectious peritonitis is:

  • a deadly, inflammatory viral disease found in cats worldwide
  • difficult to diagnose, with nonspecific early symptoms including loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, rough hair coat and fever (later symptoms can include fluid accumulation in the abdomen, making breathing difficult)
  • caused by a mutated form of a common, highly contagious, feline gastrointestinal coronavirus
  •  a leading cause of death in kittens and young cats
  • most prevalent in indoor, multi-cat environments, such as shelters and catteries

To fight FIP, Morris Animal Foundation has made a three-year, $1.2 million commitment to fund research that will advance understanding of FIP, as well as dedicate resources to stop the disease. Grant proposals were solicited from researchers worldwide, and after a competitive review process, the five that were selected for funding are:

  •  two genetic studies that focus on how viral mutations help the virus invade critical cells of the immune system
  • development of a novel vaccine strategy against feline enteric coronavirus, the nonlethal virus that can mutate into the FIP virus
  • a clinical trial to investigate if a novel antiviral drug can cure or greatly extend the lifespan and quality of life for cats infected with the FIP virus
  • investigation of two genetic mutations that may be a reliable indicator of FIP in cats, and provide the basis for development of an accurate diagnostic test.

“Veterinary medicine has struggled to make progress against FIP,” said Dr. Haworth. “While our research has increased our knowledge, the outcome for cats diagnosed with FIP remains the same. Now, with this concentrated effort building on what we know, with recent advances in coronavirus research, with great researchers, and with dedicated funding, we believe we can fight back against FIP and win.”

About Morris Animal Foundation
Morris Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization that invests in science to advance animal health. The foundation is a global leader in funding scientific studies for companion animals, horses and wildlife. Since its founding in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward 2,400 studies that have led to significant breakthroughs in diagnostics, treatments, preventions and cures to benefit animals worldwide.
Learn more at Morris Animal Foundation.