Immunohistochemistry (IHC) of tissue samples is considered the gold standard for diagnosing feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and, in cats without body cavity effusion, IHC is the only method available to establish definitive antemortem diagnosis. However, IHC requires invasive tissue sample collection. We evaluated sensitivity and specificity of an immunocytochemical assay of fine-needle aspirates (FNAs) of mesenteric lymph nodes that can be obtained noninvasively by ultrasound-guided aspiration to diagnose FIP. FNAs of mesenteric lymph nodes were obtained postmortem from 41 cats suspected of having FIP based on clinical and/or laboratory findings. FIP was confirmed immunohistochemically in 30 cats. In the other 11 cats, a disease other than FIP, which explained the clinical signs, was diagnosed histopathologically. Immunocytochemistry (ICC) was performed as an avidin-biotin complex method using a monoclonal anti-FCoV IgG 2A. Sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive values (NPV, PPV, respectively) including 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were determined. ICC was positive in 17 of 30 cats with FIP, but also in 1 of 11 control cats that was diagnosed with lymphoma. Sensitivity of ICC was 53% (95% CI: 34-72); specificity 91% (95% CI: 59-100); NPV 42% (95% CI: 22-63); and PPV 94% (95% CI: 71-100). In a lethal disease such as FIP, specificity is most important in order to avoid euthanasia of unaffected cats. Given that a false-positive result occurred and FIP was correctly detected in only approximately half of the cases of FIP, ICC of mesenteric lymph node FNA alone cannot reliably confirm or exclude FIP, but can be a helpful test in conjunction with other diagnostic measures.
Keywords: Feline infectious peritonitis; fine-needle aspiration; immunocytochemistry; immunohistochemistry; lymph node.