Researchers Discover Virus Related To Hepatitis B In Cats

May 29, 2018 Photos by: Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock

Researchers from the University of Sydney have discovered a previously unknown hepadnavirus in a cat, and now claim that companion animals can get a type of infection that is in the same family as human hepatitis B.

Dr. Julia Beatty is a Professor of Feline Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia, and says that the new hepadnavirus they discovered in an immunocompromised cat confirms that companion animals can actually get a virus that is related to the human Hepatitis B virus.

Morris Animal Foundation funded the research, which also found the hepadnavirus in the previously banked blood samples of other cats. The research team claims this discovery is exciting in that knowing cats can even get this virus is new, and now they look forward to looking at the impact of such an infection on feline health.

Dr. Beatty said that similar viruses can cause liver cancer and hepatitis in other species of animals, but the newly discovered feline hepadnavirus does not pose a risk to humans or other companion animals.

Dr. Kelly Diehl is the Senior Scientific and Communications Adviser at Morris Animal Foundation and says that the discovery of this virus is extremely important. Because they’ve found it, Dr. Diehl says, they can now take steps to developing vaccines to prevent infection and protect cats, particularly those who are immunocompromised or vulnerable to the infection.

They first identified the virus in a cat who was positive for feline immunodeficiency, and who died of lymphoma. Lymphoma is a common cancer in cats and dogs. Once they found the virus, they decided to look at the blood samples of other adult cats that had been stored. Surprisingly, they also found evidence of the hepadnavirus several of the banked samples. In ten percent of banked samples from cats who had been identified as FIV-Infected cats, they found this evidence, and in 3.2% of non-FIV-infected, they also saw it.

Dr. Beatty says this is not just relevant for cats’ health, but can even be helpful for humans as it will help them understand hepatitis viruses more. Hepatitis viruses can be fatal, and Dr. Beatty says that evidence of Hepatitis is showing in all species.

Lori Ennis

Lori Ennis is a wife, mama and friend to all animals. A self-confessed “Hot Mess,” she lives wherever the Marine Corps takes her husband. Currently, that’s Maryland with her very spoiled Labrador Retriever-mix rescue pups and a ton of saltwater fish just tanking around. Lori’s family has fostered dogs for years, mostly Golden Retrievers, and knows no home is complete without an animal buddy (or seven)!

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