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Catching cats with FeLV.

Catching cats with FeLV

Quick, think of something mean to say to your cat. Scientists have found that the tears of a cat can be used to diagnose feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

FeLV is a viral infection that is often fatal. Though a vaccine is now available, it's not always effective. Since FeLV is extremely contagious, owners must have their cats checked periodically. For some owners--especially cat breeders--the logistics of rounding up numerous cat for blood tests and the expense of trips to the vet can be prohibitive. So researchers have been looking for a simpler method for obtaining test specimens.

Though infected cats are known to shed the virus in body excretions and secretions, no one knew if concentrations were high enough in tears to make them useful in detection. Eleanor Hawkins, then at the University of California at Davis, and a group of colleagues found that tears collected from infected cats are a good souce of antigen for the tests now used on blood samples. While the tear method is not as accurate as a blood test--it may miss as many as 20 percent of the cats with FeLV whose infection would be caught by a blood test--it is a good alternative for owners who otherwise would not test their animals, says Hawkins.

The test "is a simple procedure whereby veterinarians or nonprofessional people can collect specimens for ... testing at home or in the office," the researchers write. The test strips, through the mail. Some laboratories may accept the test strips from owners, but Hawkins recommends going through a veterinarian: "It's not a straight forward disease."
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Title Annotation:feline leukemia virus
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 26, 1986
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