Luca Fund Supported Research

How your donations are applied to FIP Research
at Glasgow University Veterinary Diagnostic Services

The Luca Fund provides much needed support for a number of research initiatives at the University of Glasgow which investigate feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and its causal pathogen, feline coronavirus.

Studies are ongoing in two main areas:

The first is a data-driven study, aimed at improving diagnostic testing based on information from the standard laboratory tests used to diagnose FIP. Usually, a panel of blood tests from a suspect cat is used when investigating a possible case of FIP. However, the result of no one single test is conclusive, and diagnosis is usually reached by interpreting these test results as a group. Through decades of diagnostic testing, the Veterinary Diagnostic Services at the University of Glasgow have data from thousands of cats, which they are statistically analysing to look for ‘signature’ patterns among the results which can either rule-in or rule-out FIP as a diagnosis. The researchers have been making good progress in this area and have developed a computerised pattern recognition system which can look at an individual cat’s test results and determine whether he/she has FIP or not, with the same level of accuracy as an expert veterinary pathologist. Ultimately, the hope is that this approach will help standardise and improve the ability of veterinarians to diagnose, and equally importantly, rule-out FIP in the future.

The second main area of investigation is the transmission of feline coronavirus at the local and national scale. The Covid-19 pandemic has raised questions about the potential role of cats and other companion animals in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19. Thankfully, the evidence strongly indicates that pet animals are not involved in the pandemic. Feline coronavirus, which causes enteric infection and FIP in cats, belongs to a different coronavirus family than the Covid-19 virus and is effectively unrelated. So, while the evidence indicates cats play no role in the transmission in the current pandemic, it would be useful to know for the future how coronavirus spreads within the cat population. In particular, this study will provide new information on how feline coronavirus is spread within multi-cat households, which will generate much needed baseline information on local transmission cycles. This in turn will increase knowledge of the epidemiology of FIP, which is currently poorly understood.

Research update – July 2021.

Through the strong, ongoing support of the Luca Fund, we have been able to advance our research work in both in data-driven FIP diagnostics and the epidemiology of the underlying pathogen, feline coronavirus. We are currently extending our ‘machine learning’ diagnostic algorithm to assist in the diagnosis of wet FIP, building on our work on the dry form of the disease, with encouraging results. Because of our central role as a feline diagnostic virology laboratory, our research group has been collaborating in broader efforts to understand the role of cats in the Covid-19 pandemic. While we have found evidence of rare human-to-cat transmission events, we find no evidence of the virus transmitting in the other direction. By analysing the genetic code of the virus, we and others have confirmed that, as suspected, there is no recombination between FCoV and SARS-CoV-2 as the viruses belong to quite different groups. Our work on FCoV genetic diversity and epidemiology has also taken a major step forward.

The Luca Fund has allowed us to invest in ‘in-house’ genome-sequencing equipment, which means we will be able to study the virus genetic code in our own laboratory.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put coronavirus firmly at the top of the priority list in countries around the world, and this can only be a good thing for driving forward research on under-studied pathogens such as FCoV. The speed at which safe and effective coronavirus vaccines and therapies have been developed is nothing short of remarkable and this provides optimism for what can be achieved in the feline field given sufficient support.

Professor Willie Weir
Academic Head of Infectious Disease
University of Glasgow Veterinary Diagnostic Services.

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Edwin Louis Cole
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About the Luca Fund for FIP Research:
The Luca Fund for FIP Research is part of the global vision of the EndFIP® project. Your donation to the Luca Fund will be applied to studies conducted at the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine. The Luca Fund for FIP research is a special fund of the American Alumni of the University of Glasgow established in 2018 to accept tax-deductible donations for Feline Infectious Peritonitis research. AAGU has been recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c) (3) charitable organization. All donations to AAGU are deductible as charitable contributions to the full extent permitted by law.