Feline immunodeficiency virus infection

Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 1989 May;21(1):111-29. doi: 10.1016/0165-2427(89)90134-7.


Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) (formerly feline T-lymphotropic lentivirus or FTLV) was first isolated from a group of cats in Petaluma, California in 1986. The virus is a typical lentivirus in gross and structural morphology. It replicates preferentially but not exclusively in feline T-lymphoblastoid cells, where it causes a characteristic cytopathic effect. The major structural proteins are 10, 17 (small gag), 28 (major core), 31 (endonuclease?), 41 (transmembrane?), 52 (core precursor polyprotein), 54/62 (reverse transcriptase?), and 110/130 (major envelope) kilodaltons in size. The various proteins are antigenically distinguishable from those of other lentiviruses, although serum from EIAV-infected horses will cross-react with some FIV antigens. Kittens experimentally infected with FIV manifest a transient (several days to 2 weeks) fever and neutropenia beginning 4 to 8 weeks after inoculation. This is associated with a generalized lymphadenopathy that persists for up to 9 months. Most cats recover from this initial phase of the disease and become lifelong carriers of the virus. Complete recovery does not occur to any extent in nature or in the laboratory setting. One experimentally infected cat died from a myeloproliferative disorder several months after infection. The terminal AIDS-like phase of the illness has been seen mainly in naturally infected cats. It appears a year or more following the initial infection in an unknown proportion of infected animals. FIV has been identified in cats from all parts of the world. It is most prevalent in high density populations of free roaming cats (feral and pet), and is very uncommon in closed purebred catteries. Male cats are twice as likely to become infected as females. Older male cats adopted as feral or stray animals are at the highest risk of infection, therefore. The infection rate among freely roaming cats rises throughout life, and reaches levels ranging from less than 1% to 12% or more depending on the area. Clinically affected cats tend to be 5 years or older at the time of hospitalization. Experimental and seroepidemiologic studies suggest that FIV is transmitted mainly by bites. Intimate, non-traumatic contact (mutual grooming, shared use of food, water and litter pans) is inefficient in transmitting the infection. In utero and venereal transmission could not be demonstrated in laboratory settings. There is no statistical linkage between FIV and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infections in nature. The FeLV infection rate in FIV-infected animals is the same as it is for non-FIV-infected cats.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Cat Diseases* / immunology
  • Cat Diseases* / microbiology
  • Cats
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / etiology
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Opportunistic Infections / etiology
  • Opportunistic Infections / immunology
  • Opportunistic Infections / veterinary
  • Retroviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Retroviridae Infections / immunology
  • Retroviridae Infections / microbiology
  • Retroviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Retroviridae* / analysis
  • Retroviridae* / immunology
  • Retroviridae* / ultrastructure


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral