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,
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.
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.