FeMV Virus in Cat Kidenys Can Attack Humans – Explained!


Virologists from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research reverse-engineered an evasive virus. The virus causes chronic kidney disease in cats. Furthermore, the aim of the research was to describe the mechanism of infection and to outline its potential to infect humans. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

FeMV – Mechanism of Spread

The research revealed that feline morbillivirus or FeMV uses the same cell entry and infection mechanism as other viruses of the same group. For example, measles. However, the mechanism of spread is very different from measles. FeMV spreads from one host to another through urine just like the zoonotic Nipah virus in harboured bats. Nipah virus is an annual deadly virus that causes outbreaks in humans across Southeast Asia.

This study is the first one to provide insight into the understudied virus and its potential to infect humans from animals.

Senior author and director of the Center of Vaccine Research at Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Paul Duprex, Ph.D. said,

By understanding the genetics of a virus that was challenging to grow in the laboratory, we are now able to shine a light on its connection to chronic kidney disease and better understand how we can stop transmission and potential spillover into human populations.

FeMV was first found in stray cats across Hong Kong a decade ago. Additionally, since then, it is also found in domestic cats across Asia and Europe. Moreover, it is identified as a fully sequenced virus in the US since 2016 by the research team of Duprex from when they worked in Boston.

FeMV has a link with chronic kidney disease in cats and is among the leading causes of death in animals. Additionally, the new study shows details on how the virus reaches the kidneys.

Just like other viruses of the same family, FeMV binds to the surface protein receptor CD150 and enters the cells. However, the measles virus, which is from the same family, uses CD150 as its primary entry receptor. Moreover, people vaccinated against measles have protection from FeMV as well. Unfortunately, measles eradication may be an opportunity for viruses like FeMV to seek new hosts, jumping to unvaccinated people.

Duprex said,

That’s why illuminating animal diseases proactively matters, preparedness is vital in heading off an epidemic.

Spread and Transmission

Researchers created a genetically modified FeMV-containing fluorescent probe. It enabled the researchers to track the spread throughout cells and organs. Furthermore, they also discovered that its transmission can be put on hold by inhibiting a class of protein-cleaving enzymes known as cathepsins.

Additionally, there is another interesting fact that cathepsins are used in Nipah viruses but not morbilliviruses. Suggesting that FeMV is an intermediate evolution between two families of viruses.

Duprex said,

It’s important to understand the pathogens of animals because those can become the pathogens of people,

Learning about the viruses that infect cats is not only important for reducing the rates of kidney failure in our beloved pets, but also helps us understand something new about emerging infectious diseases and how they can spread across different animal species. There are about 85 million cats in the U.S. and over half a billion in the world. We live with them in close proximity, and their health matters.


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