2014 Funded Projects

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) diagnostic test study, University of Sydney, July 2014


Dr Mark Westman, Associate Professor Jacqueline Norris and Dr Richard Malik were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Diagnosis of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – is testing saliva a valid alternative to testing blood?”

Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) can cause immune dysfunction and malignant lymphoma in cats. It can be transmitted between cats by biting. A vaccine against FIV was first sold in Australia in late 2004 but its efficacy remains controversial and it can interfere with serum antibody tests that are used to detect FIV. In 2013, a FIV test was developed using saliva. This study aimed to determine whether saliva sampling could be used to accurately diagnose FIV infection in cats, regardless of their FIV vaccination status. It was hoped that results from this study would reduce the need for collecting blood from cats for FIV testing while increasing the number of cats that can be screened for FIV.

Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) vaccine study, University of Melbourne, March 2014


Dr Joanne Devlin, Dr Fiona Sansom and Ms Paola Vaz were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Feline herpes virus vaccines and the potential for vaccine recombination”.

Herpes viruses are large, double-stranded DNA viruses that cause disease in a wide range of animal species. Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) causes serious respiratory disease in cats worldwide. Veterinary medicine uses attenuated (live) herpe svirus vaccines to help control disease caused by these viruses. These vaccines are used in cats, as well as in horses and production animals (poultry, cattle, and pigs).

In 2012, Dr Devlin’s laboratory used high-throughput DNA sequencing to show that recent outbreaks of severe respiratory disease in Australian poultry were due to multiple, natural recombination events between commercial vaccine strains of the herpes virus infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV).This has never before been shown to occur under field conditions. These events had devastating consequences for animal health and demonstrated that live herpes virus vaccines can recombine under natural conditions, with subsequent restoration of virulence. These recent findings, reported in Science in 2012, show that potential recombination events need to be considered for the safe, future use of veterinary herpes virus vaccines. This requires an understanding of the nature and extent of herpe svirus recombination that occurs naturally in the field.

The aim of this study was to use high-throughput DNA sequencing and PCR techniques to investigate the nature and extent of natural (field) FHV-1 recombination in Australian cats, especially recombination involving live FHV-1 vaccines. To achieve this, the researchers used an extensive archive of historical and contemporary field isolates of FHV-1. It was anticipated that this study would contribute fundamental knowledge on FHV-1 evolution and pathogenesis, and facilitate the safe use of FHV-1 vaccines in the future.

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Helen Radoslovich: 0408 812 319