The pattern of shedding of feline coronavirus (FCoV) was established in 155 naturally infected pet cats from 29 households over periods of up to five years. Viral RNA was detected in faeces by reverse-transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR), and plasma antiviral antibodies by immunofluorescence. The cats rarely shed FCoV in their saliva. Three patterns of FCoV shedding were observed. Eighteen of the cats shed virus continuously, so were persistent, and possibly lifelong, carriers; none of them developed feline infectious peritonitis. Fifty-six cats ceased shedding virus, although they were susceptible to reinfection, and 44 shed intermittently or were being continuously reinfected. Four of the cats were resistant to infection. Seventy-three per cent of the virus shedding episodes lasted up to three months and 95 per cent up to nine months. There was a correlation between shedding and antibody titre but the cats could remain seropositive for some time after they had ceased shedding virus. One-off testing for FcoV by RT-PCR iS inappropriate. Identification of longterm carriers requires that a positive result be obtained by RT-PCR on faecal samples for at least eight consecutive months. A cat should be shown to be negative over five months, or to have become seronegative, to ensure that it has ceased shedding virus.
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