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Cyprus: An unusual hybrid virus is decimating the island's cats

The feline coronavirus that killed thousands of cats this year in Cyprus has an unusual generationsome characteristics, the first analyzes reveal. The virus appears to have "borrowed" a gene from a different virus that commonly infects dogs.

Veterinarians in Cyprus are sounding the alarm this year about a sharp rise in fatal cases of "feline infectious peritonitis" (FIP), a disease caused by the coronavirus but unrelated to Covid-19 and not transmissible to humans.

at least 8.000 cats have died on the island, although some activists put the number at 300.000.

The FIP virus is transmitted by contact with infected feces and usually causes mild .

New strain

The high mortality rate in Cyprus worried researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who collected from diseased animals and proceeded to genetic analyses.

The results, which have not yet been published but have been posted to the online repository bioRxivreveal that it is a hitherto unknown strain of the FIP virus, which the researchers named FCoV-23.

The most important finding is that one of its genes, the gene for the so-called spike protein that the virus uses to enter mammalian cells, comes from a canine coronavirus, pCCoV.

The new, hybrid strain appears to have arisen when two different coronaviruses, one from dogs and one from cats, infected the same animal at the same time and thus had the opportunity to exchange genetic material.

Further studies are now required to establish whether the foreign gene is responsible for the high mortality of the epidemic in Cyprus.

In the meantime, the situation on the island remains serious. So bad that the government started giving unused stocks of the drug mulnapivir, originally intended to treat COVID-19 in humans, to cats.


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