Diagnosing feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection in FIV-vaccinated and FIV-unvaccinated cats using saliva

Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis. 2016 Jun;46:66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.cimid.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Apr 8.


We recently showed that two immunochromatography point-of-care FIV antibody test kits (Witness FeLV/FIV and Anigen Rapid FIV/FeLV) were able to correctly assign FIV infection status, irrespective of FIV vaccination history, using whole blood as the diagnostic specimen. A third FIV antibody test kit, SNAP FIV/FeLV Combo (an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA]), was unable to differentiate antibodies produced in response to FIV vaccination from those incited by FIV infection. The aim of this study was to determine if saliva is a suitable diagnostic specimen using the same well characterized feline cohort. FIV infection status of these cats had been determined previously using a combination of serology, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and virus isolation. This final assignment was then compared to results obtained using saliva as the diagnostic specimen utilizing the same three point-of-care FIV antibody test kits and commercially available PCR assay (FIV RealPCR). In a population of cats where one third (117/356; 33%) were FIV-vaccinated, both immunochromatography test kits accurately diagnosed FIV infection using saliva via a centrifugation method, irrespective of FIV vaccination history. For FIV diagnosis using saliva, the specificity of Anigen Rapid FIV/FeLV and Witness FeLV/FIV was 100%, while the sensitivity of these kits was 96% and 92% respectively. SNAP FIV/FeLV Combo respectively. SNAP FIV/FeLV Combo had a specificity of 98% and sensitivity of 44%, while FIV RealPCR testing had a specificity of 100% and sensitivity of 72% using saliva. A revised direct method of saliva testing was trialed on a subset of FIV-infected cats (n=14), resulting in 14, 7 and 0 FIV positive results using Anigen Rapid FIV/FeLV, Witness FeLV/FIV and SNAP FIV/FeLV Combo, respectively. These results demonstrate that saliva can be used to diagnose FIV infection, irrespective of FIV vaccination history, using either a centrifugation method (Anigen Rapid FIV/FeLV and Witness FeLV/FIV) or a direct method (Anigen Rapid FIV/FeLV). Collection of a saliva specimen therefore provides an acceptable alternative to venipuncture (i) in fractious cats where saliva may be easier to obtain than whole blood, (ii) in settings when a veterinarian or trained technician is unavailable to collect blood and (iii) in shelters where FIV testing is undertaken prior to adoption but additional blood testing is not required.

Keywords: Cats; FIV diagnosis; FIV vaccination; Feline immunodeficiency virus; PCR; Saliva.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Cats
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Feline Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Feline Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Feline Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology
  • Female
  • Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline / genetics
  • Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline / immunology*
  • Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline / isolation & purification*
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Systems / economics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saliva / immunology*
  • Saliva / virology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Viral Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Viral Vaccines