Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is one of the most important fatal infectious diseases of cats, the pathogenesis of which has not yet been fully revealed. The present review focuses on the biology of feline coronavirus (FCoV) infection and the pathogenesis and pathological features of FIP. Recent studies have revealed functions of many viral proteins, differing receptor specificity for type I and type II FCoV, and genomic differences between feline enteric coronaviruses (FECVs) and FIP viruses (FIPVs). FECV and FIP also exhibit functional differences, since FECVs replicate mainly in intestinal epithelium and are shed in feces, and FIPVs replicate efficiently in monocytes and induce systemic disease. Thus, key events in the pathogenesis of FIP are systemic infection with FIPV, effective and sustainable viral replication in monocytes, and activation of infected monocytes. The host's genetics and immune system also play important roles. It is the activation of monocytes and macrophages that directly leads to the pathologic features of FIP, including vasculitis, body cavity effusions, and fibrinous and granulomatous inflammatory lesions. Advances have been made in the clinical diagnosis of FIP, based on the clinical pathologic findings, serologic testing, and detection of virus using molecular (polymerase chain reaction) or antibody-based methods. Nevertheless, the clinical diagnosis remains challenging in particular in the dry form of FIP, which is partly due to the incomplete understanding of infection biology and pathogenesis in FIP. So, while much progress has been made, many aspects of FIP pathogenesis still remain an enigma.
Keywords: diagnosis; feline coronavirus; feline enteric coronavirus; feline infectious peritonitis; feline infectious peritonitis virus; pathogenesis.