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IN their short communication summarised on p 589 of this issue, Meyer and others (2011) give us a timely reminder of the changing pathologies that may be associated with feline calicivirus (FCV) infection. This highly variable pathogen is typically associated with oral ulceration and signs of upper respiratory tract disease (Gaskell and others 2006). However, some strains may be non-virulent, while others have been associated with lameness. In their article, Meyer and others (2011) point to a more recently described and sinister presentation for this virus, namely virulent systemic disease (FCV-associated VSD).
This disease was first described by researchers from the University of California (Pedersen and others 2000). In this landmark paper for this virus, the authors carefully described an outbreak of disease in 1998 affecting six cats, variably associated with pyrexia, oedema, skin ulceration and jaundice, with a fatality rate (death and euthanasia) of approximately 33 per cent. The outbreak, which was initially termed haemorrhagic-like fever owing to certain similarities with rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, seemed to start with the hospitalisation of a cat from a rescue shelter for an upper respiratory tract infection. Subsequently, the infection was probably transmitted through direct and indirect contact in the veterinary practice. Feline calicivirus was isolated from nasal swabs and, more unusually, blood from the worst affected cats.
Despite the fact that FCV exists at a high prevalence in many populations of healthy cats, and as such can be an innocent bystander in cats …