Evaluation of serologic and viral detection methods for diagnosing feline herpesvirus-1 infection in cats with acute respiratory tract or chronic ocular disease

David J Maggs, Michael R. Lappin, John S. Reif, James K. Collins, Jane Carman, Denise A. Dawson, Christa Bruns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Scopus citations


Objective - To determine the value of virus isolation (VI), immunofluorescent antibody (IFA) assay, serum neutralization (SN), and ELISA for the diagnosis of clinical feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) infection in cats. Animals - 46 clinically normal cats, 17 cats with signs of acute respiratory tract disease, and 38 cats with signs of chronic ocular disease. Procedure - Conjunctival swabs for VI, conjunctival scrapings for IFA testing, and venous blood samples for SN or ELISA testing were obtained from all cats. Results - FHV-1 was detected in 10.9 and 28.3% of clinically normal cats and in 18.2 and 33.3% of cats with FHV-1-associated disease by VI and the IFA assay, respectively. There were no significant differences in the viral detection rate between cats with acute respiratory tract disease and cats with chronic ocular disease or between diseased cats and clinically normal cats; however, FHV-1 was never detected by both methods in clinically normal cats. Overall FHV-1 seroprevalence was 97% when tested by ELISA and 66% when tested by SN. Seroprevalence did not vary significantly among the 3 groups for either serologic test. Magnitude of SN and ELISA titers varied greatly but independently of presence or absence of clinical signs of FHV-1-associated disease. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values were assessed for VI and the IFA assay - jointly and individually - and for each SN and ELISA titer magnitude. Values never all exceeded 50%. Clinical Implications - Because FHV-1 can be detected commonly in clinically normal cats by the IFA assay or VI, neither test appears to aid in the clinical diagnosis of FHV-1 infection. Seroprevalence does not appear to vary between affected and clinically normal cats. SN, ELISA, VI, and the IFA assay appear to be of limited value in the diagnosis of FHV-1-associated disease in cats. Concurrent assessment of the IFA assay and VI results may permit exclusion of FHV-1 as an etiologic agent if results of both tests are negative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-507
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 1999
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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