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New Treatment Shows Promise in Stopping Deadly Disease of Cats

Researchers at Kansas State University, Wichita State University and the University of California, Davis, recently reported they successfully blocked progression of feline infectious peritonitis, a viral infection of cats that is nearly 100 percent fatal. The study was funded in part with a grant from Morris Animal Foundation.

“This is an exciting development in FIP research with the potential to have a major impact on feline health worldwide,” said Dr. Barbara Wolfe, Chief Scientific Officer at Morris Animal Foundation. “FIP is a significant problem for kittens and cats under 2 years of age, particularly in shelter environments or catteries. If we continue to be successful in this research, it will represent a major breakthrough in treating this terrible disease.”

Drs. Yunjeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok Chang at Kansas State University, and Dr. William Groutas at Wichita State University, have been developing compounds that have broad anti-viral activity. They recently demonstrated, in collaboration with Dr. Niels Pedersen at UC Davis, that one of their research compounds stopped progression of disease and led to clinical recovery when given to cats with FIP.

“These findings showed that inhibiting growth of the virus is the critical component of treatment for FIP,” said Dr. Kim. “This will help us and other researchers to find a way to effectively manage or treat FIP in the future. Also, these findings have broader implications for other important coronavirus infections, since no antiviral drugs exist for human or animal coronaviruses.”

Coronaviruses are the causative agents of many important diseases in both humans and animals, including severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome, and can cause diarrhea in dogs and ruminants.

Morris Animal Foundation recently has committed $1.2 million to fund research that will advance knowledge of FIP. After a rigorous selection process, Dr. Kim and her team received an additional grant to conduct a clinical trial investigating the effect of the newly identified compound in client-owned cats with FIP.

The clinical trial currently is underway as a collaborative effort between Kansas State University and UC Davis. The researchers hope to enroll up to 70 cats with FIP into the trial, and anticipate the study will be completed in two years.

The first phase of the trial involving 15 cats with various forms of FIP is fully enrolled and no more cats are being accepted for treatment at this time. The researchers will take two to three months to allow time to evaluate preliminary results and decide on what forms of FIP will respond best to treatment and the optimal dosage regimen. Once those determinations are made, the trial will be re-opened for another small group of cats that meet trial guidelines.

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation is a global leader in funding scientific studies that advance the health and well-being of companion animals, horses and wildlife. Since its founding in 1948, the Foundation has invested more than $103 million toward 2,500+ studies that have led to significant breakthroughs in preventive medicine, diagnostics and treatments benefitting animals around the world.