Sensitivity and specificity of a real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction detecting feline coronavirus mutations in effusion and serum/plasma of cats to diagnose feline infectious peritonitis

BMC Vet Res. 2017 Aug 2;13(1):228. doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-1147-8.


Background: Feline coronavirus (FCoV) exists as two pathotypes, and FCoV spike gene mutations are considered responsible for the pathotypic switch in feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) pathogenesis. The aim of this study was to evaluate sensitivity and specificity of a real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) specifically designed to detect FCoV spike gene mutations at two nucleotide positions. It was hypothesized that this test would correctly discriminate feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) and feline enteric coronavirus (FECV).

Methods: The study included 63 cats with signs consistent with FIP. FIP was confirmed in 38 cats. Twenty-five control cats were definitively diagnosed with a disease other than FIP. Effusion and/or serum/plasma samples were examined by real-time RT-PCR targeting the two FCoV spike gene fusion peptide mutations M1058 L and S1060A using an allelic discrimination approach. Sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive values including 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated.

Results: FIPV was detected in the effusion of 25/59 cats, one of them being a control cat with chronic kidney disease. A mixed population of FIPV/FECV was detected in the effusion of 2/59 cats; all of them had FIP. RT-PCR was negative or the pathotype could not be determined in 34/59 effusion samples. In effusion, sensitivity was 68.6% (95% CI 50.7-83.2), specificity was 95.8% (95% CI 78.9-99.9). No serum/plasma samples were positive for FIPV.

Conclusions: Although specificity of the test in effusions was high, one false positive result occurred. The use of serum/plasma cannot be recommended due to a low viral load in blood.

Keywords: Feline coronavirus (FCoV); Feline enteric coronavirus (FECV); Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP); Feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV); Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascitic Fluid / virology
  • Body Fluids / virology
  • Cat Diseases / blood
  • Cat Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cat Diseases / virology
  • Cats
  • Coronavirus, Feline / genetics*
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis / blood
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis / diagnosis*
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis / virology
  • Mutation
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / genetics


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus