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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Pan-European Study on the Prevalence of the Feline Leukaemia Virus Infection - Reported by the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases (ABCD Europe)

Studer, Nadine; Lutz, Hans; Saegerman, Claude; Goenczi, Enikoe; Meli, Marina L.; Boo, Gianluca; Hartmann, Katrin; Hosie, Margaret J.; Moestl, Karin; Tasker, Severine; Belak, Sandor; Lloret, Albert; Boucraut-Baralon, Corine; Egberink, Herman F.; Pennisi, Maria-Grazia; Truyen, Uwe; Frymus, Tadeusz; Thiry, Etienne; Marsilio, Fulvio; Addie, Diane;
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Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus associated with fatal disease in progressively infected cats. While testing/removal and vaccination led to a decreased prevalence of FeLV, recently, this decrease has reportedly stagnated in some countries. This study aimed to prospectively determine the prevalence of FeLV viraemia in cats taken to veterinary facilities in 32 European countries. FeLV viral RNA was semiquantitatively detected in saliva, using RT-qPCR as a measure of viraemia. Risk and protective factors were assessed using an online questionnaire to report geographic, demographic, husbandry, FeLV vaccination, and clinical data. The overall prevalence of FeLV viraemia in cats visiting a veterinary facility, of which 10.4% were shelter and rescue cats, was 2.3% (141/6005; 95% CI: 2.0%-2.8%) with the highest prevalences in Portugal, Hungary, and Italy/Malta (5.7%-8.8%). Using multivariate analysis, seven risk factors (Southern Europe, male intact, 1-6 years of age, indoor and outdoor or outdoor-only living, living in a group of >= 5 cats, illness), and three protective factors (Northern Europe, Western Europe, pedigree cats) were identified. Using classification and regression tree (CART) analysis, the origin of cats in Europe, pedigree, and access to outdoors were important predictors of FeLV status. FeLV-infected sick cats shed more viral RNA than FeLV-infected healthy cats, and they suffered more frequently from anaemia, anorexia, and gingivitis/stomatitis than uninfected sick cats. Most cats had never been FeLV-vaccinated; vaccination rates were indirectly associated with the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. In conclusion, we identified countries where FeLV was undetectable, demonstrating that the infection can be eradicated and highlighting those regions where awareness and prevention should be increased.


FeLV; retrovirus; prevalence; risk factors; protective factors; RT-qPCR; virus shedding; vaccination; gross domestic product at purchasing power parity per capita; veterinary sciences

Published in

2019, volume: 11, number: 11, article number: 993
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Studer, Nadine
University of Zurich
Lutz, Hans
University of Zurich
Saegerman, Claude
University of Liege
Goenczi, Enikoe
University of Zurich
Meli, Marina L.
University of Zurich
Boo, Gianluca
University of Zurich
Hartmann, Katrin
University of Munich
Hosie, Margaret J.
University of Glasgow
Moestl, Karin
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna
Tasker, Severine
University of Bristol
Lloret, Albert
Autonomous University of Barcelona
Boucraut-Baralon, Corine
Scanelis Lab
Egberink, Herman F.
Utrecht University
Pennisi, Maria-Grazia
University of Messina
Truyen, Uwe
University of Leipzig
Frymus, Tadeusz
Warsaw University of Life Sciences
Thiry, Etienne
University of Liege
Marsilio, Fulvio
University of Teramo
Addie, Diane
University of Glasgow
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UKÄ Subject classification

Clinical Science

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