Research roundup: Tracking feline immunodeficiency virus’s transmission and effect on pumas

September 30, 2019

Identifying transmission routes of diseases and estimating disease-associated mortality among wildlife presents scientists with many challenges. A team of researchers led by Meggan Craft, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, recently conducted research on feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) using novel methods to access this previously elusive information. FIV is a lentivirus, similar to human immunodeficiency virus. It affects both domestic and wild cat species and is common in pumas, but little is known about how the disease spreads between animals or affects puma mortality. In this study, the scientists estimated prevalence of FIV in pumas in California, Colorado, and Florida and assessed the pumas’ bodily fluids for evidence for signs of disease-associated mortality. The team found no evidence of disease-associated mortality in any population, and they saw that FIV was more common in male pumas than in females in California and Colorado. In those states, the prevalence of FIV did not vary with puma age, which indicates that mothers can transmit the disease to cubs and it can continue to be transmitted throughout adult life. The team’s findings shed light on whether FIV causes mortality in wild cats like puma, and its approach may be adopted to identify likely transmission routes of a pathogen and estimate its impact on a population.

Read more in the September 26 issue of Ecology and Evolution.