8 MONTROSE VOICE/FEBRUARY 27, 1987
What Discovery of AIDS-Like
Virus in Cats Means for Felines
By Russell Snyder
DAVIS, Calif. (UPI)-A feline form of
AIDS may have been killing cats for
thousands of years, University of California researchers say.
The scientists have discovered that
an AIDS-like virus called feline T-
lymphotropic Lenti virus, or FTLV,
causes a disease similar to AIDS in cats.
Symptoms include a weakened immune
system, swollen lymph glands and a
variety of infections that usually lead to
Although the FTLV virus is related to
the human AIDS virus, scientists say it
is genetically different and does not
infect people. Nor is there any evidence
that cats get the virus from humans.
"We believe this virus existed in cats
for many years, perhaps thousands of
years," said Dr. Niels Pedersen, a professor of veterinary medicine who is
spearheading the university's research
"What we have is the isolation ofacat
form of human AIDS," he said.
There are an estimated 40 million to
50 million cats living in the United
States and officials at UC Davis are
bracing for a flood of worried inquiries
from pet owners who want to know more
about the malady.
Pedersen encouraged pet owners who
think their cats are exhibiting FTLV
symptoms to have the animals examined by veterinarians. The Davis campus is preparing brochures to help
veterinarians diagnose the subject and
is planning to publish articles on the
subject in trade journals.
Veterinarians are encouraged, in
turn, to contact the UC Davis School of
Veterinary Medicine for more information.
"We did not want people to go out and
destroy their cats," Pedersen said during a news briefing.
The disease was first noticed by
Mario Brown of the Petaluma Veterinary Hospital in 1982 among 43 former
stray cats that had been taken in by a
A new kitten added to the group
began having bouts of diarrhea, developed a persisitent cold and an eye infection and later aborted a litter of kittens.
In the third year, the cat became
anemic, thin and began behaving strangely, roaming compulsively and moving her mouth and tongue. Eventually.
Other cats who shared the same quarters began developing the same syndrome.
Researchers concluded that cats living in close contact with many other
cats are more likely to contract FTLV
than a house cat that rarely goes outside.
Random tests found, for example,
that about 5 percent of cats tested in the
San Francisco area had the FTLV
virus. Only 1 percent of farm cats may
have the virus, Pedersen said, while the
number falls below 1 percent for cats
that are kept inside New York City
apartments. He said it is too early to
determine how many cats nationwide
have the FTLV virus.
So far, researchers have found no evidence that FTLV is transmitted
through feline intercourse. Sexual contact is a primary route of AIDS transmission in humans.
"We know the virus is present in the
saliva in the cat," Pedersen said. "It
could be transmitted through a bite or
through mutual grooming. There is a
great deal of saliva on the hair."
It is hoped discovery ofthe virus will
help in human AIDS research as well as
eliminating a cause of disease for the
nation's most popular pet.
"The virus, although it's in the same
family as the human AIDS virus and
has a lot of very close similarities, is
distinctly cat. We have no evidence of
transmission for anything but cat-to-
cat," said Pederson. Although the
AIDS-like disease is probably fatal to a
cat, immunologist Janet Yamamoto
urged people not to kill off their pets if
they show signs of an immunodeficiency. She said once word gets around
about the virus, veterinarians will be
able to diagnose the disease and may be
able to treat some symptoms.
"Please consult your vet before you do
anything drastic to your cat," she said.
Pederson said the team was contacting laboratories elsewhere in the United
States, in Europe and in Japan to find
out how widespread the virus is.
A problem in AIDS research has been
that there is no way to cause the disease
in laboratory animals for testing of
treatments and vaccines. Two viruses
can cause AIDS-like symptoms in chimpanzees, but these are somewhat different from human AIDS.
Yamamto and colleagues said the cat
syndrome might be an easier model to
work with because cats are cheaper
than chimps and because the disease
appears to mimic human AIDS more
It may also be a major cause of disease in cats, although this is too early to
tell, she said. Some cats with feline
leukemia also had immunodeficiencies
falsely blamed on the leukemia virus.
The cat virus did not infect human
cells when mixed in lab dishes, and did
not react with AIDS virus antibodies
from AIDS patients, Yamamoto said.
Total lau;n maintenance
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• Complete Sprinkler Suslems
HOUSTON (UPI)—Two new AIDS
cases transmitted from infected men to
heterosexual women should alert Houston's general population about the
dangers of casual sex, the city health
The city's 10 heterosexually transmitted AIDS cases account for less than 1
percent of the total in the area.
But Dr. James Haughton said the
cases "establish for the citizens of Houston that it can happen here too. It's not
just a gay disease as the people of this
city seem to think."
He advocated an end to "'high-risk'
behaviors" that increase the likelihood
of exposure to the virus that causes
acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
"By high-risk behavior, I mean indiscriminate sexual activity, or at least
sexual activity outside of marriage or
with people you don't know well enough
to feel secure about, doing drugs and
especially doing drugs in circumstances
where you are sharing needles with
someone else, and for men, having sexual relationships with prostitutes."
The two new cases of heterosexually
transmitted AIDS occurred in women
aged 24 and 34. They are still living. The
epidemiology department reported a
total of 1,034 cases in the Houston area,
up from the 995 reported the month
Going in Trust
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (UPI)—The estate of
Liberace will be placed in a trust to
benefit the performer's foundation, providing scholarships to music students
across the nation, according to a will
filed in court.
The five-page will, dated Jan. 22 and
filed with the Clark County Clerk's
office several days after Liberace's
death on Feb. 4, places his entire estate
in "The Liberace Revocable Trust."
Joel R. Strote, the performer's lawyer,
was named to continue as trustee of the
trust and Liberace asked that his
accountant, Frank DiBella, oversee the
Liberace's estate is believed to be
worth millions of dollars. The will did
not provide a breakdown of Liberace's
assets, but the performer asked that all
his business enterprises continue in
operation. The businesses include the
Tivoli Gardens Restaurant and the
Liberace Museum, both in Las Vegas.
Proceeds from the museum have been
used to fund the 8-year-old Liberace
Foundation, which provides scholarships to music students at 22 colleges
and universities nationwide.
Strote said funds generated from the
trust will go to the foundation and its
Seymour Heller, Liberace's personal
manager for the past 36 years, said Saturday the Liberace Foundation has
been providing scholarship money for
the past four years, including $220,000
"We hope to do more and hope to continue providing scholarships forever in
Liberace's name," said Heller, a
member of the foundation board that
meets once a year.
After Liberace's death, his family
requested donations to the foundation
in lieu of flowers, and Heller said, "The
response has been heart-warming."