Diagnostic utility of a direct immunofluorescence test to detect feline coronavirus antigen in macrophages in effusive feline infectious peritonitis

Vet J. 2013 Nov;198(2):362-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2013.08.023. Epub 2013 Sep 4.


The antemortem diagnosis of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) remains challenging in clinical practice, since current testing methods have suboptimal diagnostic accuracy. Immunohistochemical testing of biopsy specimens and postmortem examination are the standard diagnostic methods, although direct immunofluorescence (DIF) testing to detect feline coronavirus in macrophages in effusion specimens has been reported to have 100% specificity and has been recommended as an antemortem confirmatory test. The aim of this study was to compare the results of DIF testing in antemortem feline effusions with postmortem results using field samples. Effusion specimens were collected antemortem from 17 cats and tested by DIF, followed by postmortem examination. Histopathological examination of specimens collected at postmortem confirmed FIP in 10/17 cases and ruled out FIP out in 7/17 cases. Antemortem DIF testing was positive in all 10 cases confirmed as FIP at postmortem examination. In the seven cats where FIP was ruled out at postmortem examination, DIF was negative in five cases and positive in the remaining two cases. The calculated sensitivity of DIF testing was 100% and the specificity was 71.4%. Duplicate effusion specimens from eight cats that were initially DIF positive were stored refrigerated (4 °C) or at room temperature (22-25 °C) and subjected to serial DIF testing to determine the duration of positive results. DIF-positive specimens stored at both temperatures retained their positive status for at least 2 days.

Keywords: Direct immunofluorescence test; Feline coronavirus; Feline infectious peritonitis; Macrophages.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral* / metabolism
  • Cats
  • Coronavirus, Feline / immunology
  • Coronavirus, Feline / isolation & purification*
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis / diagnosis*
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis / immunology
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis / virology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct / methods*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct / veterinary
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / virology*
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • Antigens, Viral