Feline Herpes Virus Diagnostics

  • Authors: Thomas Walton 1, Erica Suchman 2
    Affiliations: 1: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Retired), United States Department of Agriculture, Fort Collins, CO, 80526-8117; 2: Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, 80523
  • Citation: Thomas Walton, Erica Suchman. 2007. Feline herpes virus diagnostics.
  • Publication Date : January 2007
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Feline herpes virus (FHV-1, feline viral rhinotracheitis) is caused by a virus in the family Herpesviridae and the genus Vericellovirus (subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae).  FHV-1 is an enveloped virus with an icosahedral capsid that is 150 to 200 nm in diameter and contains a linear double-stranded DNA genome (3). FHV-1 is found worldwide and can infect members of the family Felidaeof any breed or age, however kittens, immunosuppressed cats, cats infected with feline T-cell leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, or cats under stress or with poor nutrition are more susceptible.  The virus was first identified in 1957 and is one of two viruses that cause acute respiratory disease of kittens (the other is calcivirus); about half of all kittens with acute respiratory disease have FHV-1 (1).  Transmission is via contact with infected materials either by direct contact, contact with infected fomites, or via respiratory droplets.   It is known that the sneeze of FHV-1–infected cats can spread the virus up to 4 feet.  It is thought that most cats (~70%) develop FHV-1 infections at an early age.  Due to poor immune responses, cats can suffer multiple infections, and this virus is a problem in animal care facilities and catteries that house many cats in high density. 

Diagnosis is performed using enyzme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), PCR, or immunofluorescent antibody testing of nasal smears using FHV-1–specific antibodies (Fig. 1).  As herpes viruses replicate primarily in the nucleus, antibody staining of the nucleus will be observed in positive cultures (1).  Smears can also be giemsa stained and viewed for diagnostic cytopathic effect such as chromatin margination (movement of the chromosomes to the nuclear membrane) (Fig. 2), nuclear inclusion bodies (scarring of the nucleus by viral replication) (Fig. 2–4), and syncytia formation (multinucleated cells) (Fig. 4).
See also:
Feline Herpes Virus

1.  Fenner, F., P. A. Bachmann, E. P. J. Gibbs, F. A. Murphy, M. J. Studdert, and D. O.White. 1987.  Veterinary virology, p. 360.  Academic Press, Inc., Orlando, Fla. 

2.  Roberts, W. A., and G. A. Carter. 1976. Essentials of veterinary virology, p. 130. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, Mich.

3.  Roizman, R., and P. E. Pellet. 2001. The family Herpesviridae: a brief introduction, p. 1679–1728. InD. M. Knipe and P. M. Howley (ed.), Fields virology. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, Pa.

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