Oropharyngeal Shedding of Gammaherpesvirus DNA by Cats, and Natural Infection of Salivary Epithelium

Elizabeth C. Rose, Tiffany Y. Tse, Andrew W. Oates, Ken Jackson, Susanne Pfeiffer, Shannon L. Donahoe, Laura Setyo, Vanessa R. Barrs, Julia A. Beatty, Patricia A. Pesavento

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Felis catus gammaherpesvirus-1 (FcaGHV1), a novel candidate oncogenic virus, infects cats worldwide. Whether the oropharynx is a site of virus shedding and persistence, and whether oronasal carcinomas harbor FcaGHV1 nucleic acid were investigated. In a prospective molecular epidemiological study, FcaGHV1 DNA was detected by cPCR in oropharyngeal swabs from 26/155 (16.8%) of cats. Oropharyngeal shedding was less frequently detected in kittens ≤3 months of age (5/94, 5.3%) than in older animals; >3 months to ≤1 year: 8/26, 30.8%, (p = 0.001, OR 7.91, 95% CI (2.320, 26.979)); >1 year to ≤6 years: 10/20, 50%, (p < 0.001, OR 17.8 95% CI (5.065, 62.557)); >6 years: 3/15, 33% (p = 0.078). Provenance (shelter-owned/privately owned) was not associated with shedding. In situ hybridization (ISH) identified FcaGHV1-infected cells in salivary glandular epithelium but not in other oronasal tissues from two of three cats shedding viral DNA in the oropharynx. In a retrospective dataset of 11 oronasopharyngeal carcinomas, a single tumor tested positive for FcaGHV1 DNA by ISH, a papillary carcinoma, where scattered neoplastic cells showed discrete nuclear hybridization. These data support the oronasopharynx as a site of FcaGHV1 shedding, particularly after maternal antibodies are expected to decline. The salivary epithelium is identified as a potential site of FcaGHV1 persistence. No evidence supporting a role for FcaGHV1 in feline oronasal carcinomas was found in the examined tumours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number566
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Carcinoma
  • Feline
  • Gammaherpesvirus
  • Oncogenesis
  • Shedding
  • Transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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