FIP Research at GUVS
Current Research at the University of Glasgow into Feline Infectious Peritonitis
The Veterinary Diagnostic Service at the University of Glasgow provides specialist support to veterinarians throughout the UK and abroad on a variety of feline viral disease. The laboratory receives diagnostic samples from thousands of cats every year suspected of having FIP or other diseases caused by viruses. This has placed the laboratory in an ideal position to undertake ‘field-based’ research on FIP and its causative pathogen, feline coronavirus. A clinical sample BioBank and database was established at the turn of the millennium and now tens of thousands of samples and associated data are contained in an extensive repository, which may be harnessed for research purposes. The laboratory is currently working to exploit this important resource to improve our knowledge of FCoV and FIP, particularly in the areas of advanced diagnostic methods and the epidemiology of feline coronavirus. The close connection that the laboratory enjoys with practicing veterinarians means that cases may be followed-up, and household cats may be recruited for research projects. FIP research undertaken at VDS Glasgow is entirely ‘practice-based’ using the material routinely collected for diagnostic investigation and therefore does not involve the use of experimental cats.
FIP remains a challenge to diagnose, with the condition sometimes associated with vague clinical signs which may be caused by a variety of other diseases. A PhD project is current being undertaken by one of the VDS laboratory technicians, Dawn Dunbar, to integrate information from the current diagnostic test methods to provide more useful and accurate information for practicing veterinarians. Dawn is mining our extensive database using computer-assisted ‘machine learning’, to identify patterns or ‘signatures’ associated with FIP, and it is anticipated this will form the basis of an advanced method to help diagnose or rule-out the disease in suspect cases in future. This project is being undertaken together with colleagues at the Centre for Virus Research in Glasgow, a center of excellence for virus research, and scientists at the Institute of Biodiversity, Infectious Disease, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, who specialize in the advanced statistical analysis of large datasets. In addition to improving diagnostics, with sufficient funding, VDS Glasgow has an opportunity to perform much-needed basic research on FIP and FCoV. This includes developing a better understanding of the transmission and epidemiology of the virus and investigating the underlying factors which can explain why some cats infected with FCoV can eliminate the virus, while others succumb to this devastating disease.
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