Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Can Feline Leukemia Virus affect me?
Feline Leukemia Virus, or FeLV, is a part of a large family of “retroviruses” which really means they have a cunning ability to infect our feline friend and make itself a permanent “guest” in their body. While most cats that contract FeLV, will develop acute (or severe) initial response, many will eventually clear the virus from their blood, however, FeLV has other plans. FeLV eventually integrates into the cat’s own DNA, and may lay dormant for weeks, months, or even years to come, with your cat appearing overall happy. For reasons we do not fully understand FeLV will become activated and may result in a variety of symptoms, many of which are disheartening. One of the first questions most people ask, whether they are planning on adopting a cat or if they already have one, is can FeLV affect me?
There is currently no evidence that FeLV can infect people. This means that if you are planning on adopting a cat or already have a cat, whether FeLV positive or not, this virus will not infect humans nor will it lead to the development of blood cancer, or leukemia. This is the current state of understanding, but will it always remain the same?
A Research Study done in 2017 suggests that FeLV may have the potential to infect humans (in the future, that is)
We all heard about viruses that can jump from one species to another. The most talked about one is the flu. Names such as Avian Flu (or bird flu), Swine Flu (or pig flu), and others are often reported in main news media the new threat. From their name it is clear that these flu strains came from species other than humans and may pose a threat to humans worldwide. But viruses making the “jump” from animals to people are not as common as one would think.
Viruses, such as FeLV, co-evolve with their host, in this case our beloved cats. That means that presumably tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years have passed to allow FeLV develop an optimal match to their feline host. Considering that cats a relatively recent addition to human society (possibly five to ten thousand years ago), it is unlikely that enough time has passed to promote FeLV infection in humans. But will it always be the case?
In a 2017 study conducted at the University of Glasgow in the UK and in Tulane University in New Orleans, USA, researchers showed that FeLV (particularly the B strain of the virus) was able to infect some human cells including cancer cells, skin cells and cells that make up our connective tissues. This infection was made possible thanks to the ability of the virus change itself (through a process known as gene mutation read more here). The good news was that white blood cells, which are infected in cats, were fully protected in humans. This was important because white blood are the main target of FeLV and as far as we can see they play “hard to get” when humans are concerned. Human blood cells were able to suppress the virus from growing by preventing it from changing itself, a pretty cool ability indeed!
So what does this all mean to me?
This study actually provide additional support to the fact that FeLV does NOT pose a threat to humans. It also means that cats with FeLV are perfectly safe to have as pets, and that if your pet has been diagnosed with FeLV you should have no concerns whether the disease may infect you or your loved ones. Nevertheless, you should always test for FeLV at your local vet or by ordering self collection saliva kit offered by CatDX.com. Testing your cat is important because it helps prevent the spread of the virus and allows you to better monitor your cat’s health.
Cats may be one of humans newest companions, but they are one of our most beloved friends. We should make sure we keep them as healthy and happy as we possibly can… it is our duty.
This blog was prepared by CatDX.com LLC. CatDX mission is to develop and provide accurate affordable pet testing. We know that going to your vet can be stressful and expensive so we developed a saliva test for FeLV at a fraction of the cost. Learn more at CatDX.com