A new strain of feline coronavirus, named FCoV-23, is being blamed for thousands of cat deaths in Cyprus.
This strain appears to have borrowed key RNA sequences from a highly virulent canine coronavirus, pantropic canine coronavirus (pCCoV), leading to an unusual outbreak of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) on the island.
This is reported by Science.org.
The situation in Cyprus has drawn international attention due to the rapid increase in FIP cases, a condition typically caused by a type of cat coronavirus but not usually seen in such high numbers.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and colleagues identified FCoV-23 through RNA sequencing of fluid samples from sick cats.
This new strain contains a large chunk of RNA from the dog virus pCCoV, which may have allowed it to cause severe FIP while still infecting the intestines and spreading through feces.
The discovery of FCoV-23 highlights the importance of cross-species understanding in viral evolution and raises concerns about its potential spread beyond Cyprus.
The researchers are now focusing on understanding the prevalence, fatality rate, and unique features of FCoV-23, particularly its high rate of neurological symptoms compared to typical FIP cases.
This development underscores the complexity of viral diseases and the ongoing challenges in managing outbreaks that cross species barriers.