So before mefloquine is given to sick cats with FIP, the aim of their project is to obtain as much information as possible on how the feline body is likely to deal with mefloquine. In people, mefloquine is metabolized by the liver. The cat is known to have trouble metabolizing some medicines, so this project is to investigate if the cat will take longer to metabolize the mefloquine than people or dogs.  If the cat is taking longer to metabolize the mefloquine than other species, then researchers there need to know this and reduce the dosage accordingly if clinical trials go ahead.

Meanwhile, Morris Animal Foundation funding products (often in conjunction with the Winn Feline Foundation)  is advancing understanding in how this virus affects some cats and not others, as well as identified new targets for novel treatments.

Cat expert Steve Dale offers FIP updatesRecent advances in molecular biology are helping us understand how FIP virus causes disease through mutations in the coronavirus.  Morris Animal Foundation wants to capitalize on these discoveries, and has made FIP an even bigger priority with newly funded studies:

  •  two genetic studies that focus on how viral mutations help the virus invade critical cells of the immune system
  •  development of a novel vaccine strategy against feline enteric coronavirus, the nonlethal virus that can mutate into the FIP virus
  •  a clinical trial to investigate if a novel antiviral drug can cure or greatly extend the lifespan and quality of life for cats infected with the FIP virus
  •  investigation of two genetic mutations that may be a reliable indicator of FIP in cats, and provide the basis for development of an accurate diagnostic test.

Animal shelters dread FIP. Despite it’s name FIP itself is NOT contagious. However, the corona virus which causes FIP is VERY contagious. And its thought the sometimes crowded shelter conditions, and the stress related to being there allows FIP to occur often in shelters (and catteries).

“This is a tough situation with no easy answer,” said Dr. Kate Hurley of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. “We know the other kittens are at higher risk, but there’s no test to tell which, if any, will go on to get ill.”

What we do know, said Hurley, is that “because disease can develop any time within about 18 months after exposure, and maintaining these kittens in the stressful situation of a shelter will only increase risk; quarantine is not an option. Additionally, if they happen to be infected with, and shedding, a particularly virulent strain of coronavirus — one more likely to mutate to FIP in an individual cat — keeping them in the shelter is not an optimal plan for the other kittens in the facility.”

Hurley suggested the best option, if it’s possible, is to sterilize the kittens and then house them in informed foster care without other kittens while looking for homes for the littermates.

For more information on FIP in animal shelters, visit the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program website’s FIP information center.