First Feline AIDS Vaccine Available

The virus that causes AIDS, commonly known as HIV, isn’t just a concern for humans. Researchers have also identified a similar cat disease, caused by a different but related virus known as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV. FIV can cause a fatal disease in cats. However, a scientific breakthrough has brought about a preventative vaccine. Today, Fort Dodge Animal Health, division of Wyeth, announced the release of the first-ever FIV, or feline AIDS*, vaccine. Fel-O-Vax® FIV is available through licensed practicing veterinarians nationwide.

National Distribution of FIV Infographic

Fel-O-Vax FIV is based on patented technology developed by Janet Yamamoto, Ph.D., an immunologist and researcher at the University of Florida. Yamamoto originally co-discovered the FIV virus with Dr. Niels Pedersen, an international authority on retroviruses and immunologic disorders of small animals at the University of California/Davis. The two institutions hold joint patents on the FIV vaccine, and Fort Dodge, with approval by the USDA, utilized the research to develop a commercial vaccine.

“Formal approval of the vaccine is really a tribute to Dr. Yamamoto, who doggedly persisted in pioneering this approach for an FIV vaccine,” said Pedersen.

At least one other international expert has applauded Yamamoto’s research and also expressed optimism for a human AIDS vaccine. Mauro Bendinelli, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the University of Pisa in Italy has said, “I expect this will boost interest in the development of other lentiviral vaccines, including HIV.”

Like HIV, FIV is an international concern. Indeed, the research teams at Fort Dodge Animal Health and the University of Florida have worked more than 10 years to make an FIV vaccine that could be used globally. Steve Chu, DVM, Ph.D., Fort Dodge’s senior vice president for global research and development, called Yamamoto’s vaccine technology, “a scientific breakthrough for lentivirus vaccine and disease prevention.”

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), up to one in 12 cats may test positive for FIV. The virus is transmitted from one cat to another primarily through bite wounds caused by fighting. Unlike HIV, this virus is spread in high levels through saliva. But like the human form of the virus, FIV can be a deadly disease for cats as it weakens the animal’s immune system. The cat is no longer able to fight off infection or disease similar to a human with HIV.

“It is generally believed that transmission of FIV takes place through bite wounds inflicted during fighting, and no cat-to-human transmission has ever been reported in the literature. We do, however, see the virus spreading rapidly through the cat population with up to 15 percent of at-risk or sick cats already infected with FIV,” said Dr. Yamamoto.

FIV is most common among cats that are exposed to the outdoors and multiple cat households.

Fel-O-Vax FIV, which has an 84 percent efficacy rate, requires three initial doses and once yearly thereafter. The vaccine is recommended as an aid in the prevention of infection with FIV. After reviewing additional data submitted by Fort Dodge Animal Health, the USDA also approved the FIV vaccine be administered to cats eight weeks of age and older. The vaccine provides protection for a minimum of 12 months.

As a cat lover, Debbie Tice was aware of feline AIDS. She was surprised, however, when one of her own cats, Vincent, tested positive for FIV. Vincent contracted FIV and died from complications of the disease within five months. Tice spent about $2,000 treating Vincent for a variety of ailments all related to his underlying disease caused by FIV.

Tice was devastated to learn that her cat had FIV. She said that the disease is very opportunistic and takes advantage of every infection that comes down the pike. Based on the risk factors, Tice would vaccinate her cat.

Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), is a leading manufacturer and distributor of prescription and over-the-counter animal health care products for livestock, companion animal, equine, swine and poultry industries in North America and international markets. Key products include CYDECTIN® Pour-On, QUEST® Gel, EtoGesic® Tablets and ProHeart® Injection. The company is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas.

*Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), the cause of feline AIDS, is not the same virus as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the cause of human AIDS.


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