Patterns of feline coronavirus infection and fecal shedding from cats in multiple-cat environments

Janet E Foley, Amy Poland, Jeff Carlson, Niels C Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Objective - To determine, by use of a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, patterns of fecal shedding of feline coronavirus among cats. Design - Prospective observational study. Animals - 275 purebred cats from 6 private catteries and 40 specific-pathogen-free (SPF) laboratory-reared cats. Procedure - 40 SPF cats were experimentally inoculated with crude fecal extract containing feline enteric coronavirus (FECV). Fecal and plasma samples were collected every 4 days and evaluated by use of RT-PCR and indirect immunofluorescence assays, respectively, to correlate RT-PCR results with fecal infectivity and to determine patterns of FECV shedding and anti-FECV IgG production in acutely infected cats. The 275 cats in private catteries were monitored for 1 year. Fecal and blood samples were collected every 1 to 3 months and assayed by use of RT-PCR and serologic tests to determine patterns of coronavirus shedding and cofactors for high frequency shedding. Results - Results of the RT-PCR test in SPF cats were directly correlated with fecal extract infectivity. Overall, 370 of 894 (41%) fecal samples collected from cattery and shelter cats contained infectious levels of coronavirus. Of 121 cats from which multiple samples were collected, 11 never shed virus and 35, 65, and 10, respectively, shed virus with low, moderate, and high frequency. High frequency shedding was associated with age and cattery of origin, but not with sex or concurrent disease. Stress associated with parturition and lactation did not induce shedding in queens. Kittens did not shed coronavirus before they were 10 weeks old, even when nursed by shedding mothers. Clinical Implications - A large proportion of cats in multiple-cat environments shed coronavirus at any given time, but most undergo cycles of infection and shedding, recovery, and reinfection. Infection is acquired from chronically shedding cats and from infectious cats undergoing transient primary infection. Chronically shedding cats cannot be identified on the basis of antibody titer or signalment, but must be identified on the basis of the results of serial fecal RT-PCR tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1307-1312
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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