Canine parvovirus (CPV) and feline panleukopaenia virus (FPLV) are two closely related viruses, which are known to cause severe disease in younger unvaccinated animals. As well as causing disease in their respective hosts, CPV has recently acquired the feline host range, allowing it to infect both cats and dogs. As well as causing disease in dogs, there is evidence that under some circumstances CPV may also cause disease in cats. This study has investigated the prevalence of parvoviruses in the faeces of clinically healthy cats and dogs in two rescue shelters. Canine parvovirus was demonstrated in 32.5% (13/50) of faecal samples in a cross sectional study of 50 cats from a feline only shelter, and 33.9% (61/180) of faecal samples in a longitudinal study of 74 cats at a mixed canine and feline shelter. Virus was isolated in cell cultures of both canine and feline origin from all PCR-positive samples suggesting they contained viable, infectious virus. In contrast to the high CPV prevalence in cats, no FPLV was found, and none of 122 faecal samples from dogs, or 160 samples collected from the kennel environment, tested positive for parvovirus by PCR. Sequence analysis of major capsid VP2 gene from all positive samples, as well as the non-structural gene from 18 randomly selected positive samples, showed that all positive cats were shedding CPV2a or 2b, rather than FPLV. Longitudinally sampling in one shelter showed that all cats appeared to shed the same virus sequence type at each date they were positive (up to six weeks), despite a lack of clinical signs. Fifty percent of the sequences obtained here were shown to be similar to those recently obtained in a study of sick dogs in the UK (Clegg et al., 2011). These results suggest that in some circumstances, clinically normal cats may be able to shed CPV for prolonged periods of time, and raises the possibility that such cats may be important reservoirs for the maintenance of infection in both the cat and the dog population.
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