The ongoing evolution of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) has resulted in the existence of a diverse continuum of viruses. FIV isolates differ with regards to their mutation and replication rates, plasma viral loads, cell tropism and the ability to induce apoptosis. Clinical disease in FIV-infected cats is also inconsistent. Genomic sequence variation of FIV is likely to be responsible for some of the variation in viral behaviour. The specific genetic sequences that influence these key viral properties remain to be determined. With knowledge of the specific key determinants of pathogenicity, there is the potential for veterinarians in the future to apply this information for prognostic purposes. Genomic sequence variation of FIV also presents an obstacle to effective vaccine development. Most challenge studies demonstrate acceptable efficacy of a dual-subtype FIV vaccine (Fel-O-Vax FIV) against FIV infection under experimental settings; however, vaccine efficacy in the field still remains to be proven. It is important that we discover the key determinants of immunity induced by this vaccine; such data would compliment vaccine field efficacy studies and provide the basis to make informed recommendations on its use.
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