Feline foamy virus

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Feline foamy virus
Virus classification Edit this classification
(unranked): Virus
Realm: Riboviria
Kingdom: Pararnavirae
Phylum: Artverviricota
Class: Revtraviricetes
Order: Ortervirales
Family: Retroviridae
Genus: Felispumavirus
Feline foamy virus

Feline syncytial virus

Feline foamy virus or Feline syncytial virus (FeFV or FFV) is a retrovirus and belongs to the family Retroviridae and the subfamily Spumaretrovirinae. It shares the genus Felispumavirus with only Puma feline foamy virus. There has been controversy on whether FeFV is nonpathogenic as the virus is generally asymptomatic in affected cats and does not cause disease. However, some changes in kidney and lung tissue have been observed over time in cats affected with FeFV, which may or may not be directly affiliated. This virus is fairly common and infection rates gradually increase with a cat's age. Study results from antibody examinations and PCR analysis have shown that over 70% of felines over 9 years old were seropositive for Feline foamy virus. Viral infections are similar between male and female domesticated cats whereas in the wild, more feral females cats are affected with FeFV.

Structure and genome[edit]

Spumaviruses are enveloped and spherical shaped. They are 80-100 nm in diameter.

Retroviruses are commonly known to have a (+) single stranded RNA genome with a DNA intermediate. Typically, the virus will use its own reverse transcriptase enzyme to create DNA from the RNA genome. The FeFV viral genome is linear with (+) single stranded RNA or double stranded DNA depending on the timing of reverse transcription as this process occurs later in the replication cycle of foamy viruses. This results in the infectious particles having DNA.

Because the virus has a late reverse transcription, which results in the viral particles containing DNA instead of RNA, it raises question to if this virus is actually considered a DNA virus or RNA virus. FeFV also has characteristics that are more consistent with hepadnaviruses (DNA genome) rather than conventional retroviruses (RNA genome). Some of these characteristics include the lack of a nucleocapsid protein and the equal binding affinity of the carboxyl-terminal portion of the GAG gene to DNA and RNA.


Foamy viruses are unique and complex retroviruses with their viral replication strategies being different from conventional retroviruses. Foamy viruses have two bel genes, located between env and the 3 prime long terminal repeats of the FeFV provirus. A gag gene is also necessary for FeFV replication.

The foamy virus replication cycle begins when the virus attaches to an unknown cellular receptor. The virus has many long attachments or spikes (15 nm) that aid in the viral entry into various cell types in the host. Once inside the host cell, the viral core makes its way along the microtubules to its destination; the microtubule-organizing center. This is when early reverse transcription occurs. The foamy virus protease cuts the Gag protein and thus activates the viral core disassembly at the organizing center. Viral mRNAs and proteins are produced and the virions or complete viral particles gather in the cytoplasm of the cell. A retrieval signal from the cell's endoplasmic reticulum brings Env from the virion to the organelle. Without Env and GAG proteins, there is no foamy virus budding that occurs. Before budding occurs, later reverse transcription can take place, which results in 20% of the virions containing infectious DNA.

Host and transmission[edit]

Grooming behavior in infected domesticated cats is thought to be one method of transmission of FeFV via saliva.

The host for FeFV is domestic and free-ranging felines. Although the major mode of transmission has not been specifically documented, FeFV has been identified in the saliva of many affected cats. Transmission has been hypothesized to occur through biting and grooming behaviors. The biting and aggressive behaviors in felines would account for many virus transmissions in wild cats while domesticated cats would be more apt to transmit the virus through licking. Cats who have been diagnosed with the virus are generally very healthy and go on to live normal lives, however if the cat also is infected with FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) it is advised to keep your cat indoors and away from other animals.

Associated diseases[edit]

Feline immunodeficiency virus genome – a retrovirus and associated disease to Feline foamy virus

Felines infected with Feline foamy virus are often infected with FIV as well. FIV, also a retrovirus, will have more noticeable symptoms such as swollen joints, enlarged lymph nodes, and difficulty walking. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is another retrovirus that causes a common infectious disease in felines by suppressing the immune system. The modes of transmission for FeLV include blood, saliva, urine, and milk. Kittens are very susceptible to Feline leukemia virus and can develop cancer as the disease progresses.


To have a proper diagnosis, one must take one's cat to a veterinarian who will perform multiple blood tests to look for the antibodies for FeFV. This testing is not always available and can be rather expensive for the pet owner. Furthermore, there is such a small correlation between FeFV and disease that testing is not always useful. If an animal is showing symptoms such as those for polyarthritis, veterinarians might examine the joint fluid and treat the symptoms.


Currently, there is no treatment for felines with Feline Foamy Virus. However, ongoing studies are exploring the role of FeFV in viral gene therapy to treat other pathogenic feline diseases. Felines with FeFV often live long, healthy and disease free lives, which is of particular interest in the scientific community in the use of viral gene therapy.

Gene therapy[edit]

Many studies have been carried out with a number of foamy viruses and several mammals to better understand the viral replication strategies and viral genomes. With the increasing number of disease and the increasing number of discoveries linking diseases to genes, the future looks very promising in using foamy viruses for gene therapies.

See also[edit]


  • Afonso, PV; Zamborlini, A; Saïb, A; Mahieux, R (14 April 2007). "Centrosome and retroviruses: the dangerous liaisons". Retrovirology. 4: 27. doi:10.1186/1742-4690-4-27. PMC 1855351. PMID 17433108.
  • Erlwein, O; McClure, MO (December 2010). "Progress and prospects: foamy virus vectors enter a new age". Gene Therapy. 17 (12): 1423–9. doi:10.1038/gt.2010.95. PMID 20631802.
  • German, AC; Harbour, DA; Helps, CR; Gruffydd-Jones, TJ (15 May 2008). "Is feline foamy virus really apathogenic?". Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 123 (1–2): 114–8. doi:10.1016/j.vetimm.2008.01.035. PMID 18342375.
  • Linial, ML (March 1999). "Foamy viruses are unconventional retroviruses". Journal of Virology. 73 (3): 1747–55. doi:10.1128/JVI.73.3.1747-1755.1999. PMC 104413. PMID 9971751.
  • "Feline Foamy Virus Infection in Cats". petMD LLC.
  • Lee, IT; Levy, JK; Gorman, SP; Crawford, PC; Slater, MR (1 March 2002). "Prevalence of feline leukemia virus infection and serum antibodies against feline immunodeficiency virus in unowned free-roaming cats". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 220 (5): 620–2. doi:10.2460/javma.2002.220.620. PMID 12418520.
  • Ruboyianes, R; Worobey, M (July 2016). "Foamy-like endogenous retroviruses are extensive and abundant in teleosts". Virus Evolution. 2 (2): vew032. doi:10.1093/ve/vew032. PMC 5210030. PMID 28058112.
  • Winkler, IG; Löchelt, M; Flower, RL (September 1999). "Epidemiology of feline foamy virus and feline immunodeficiency virus infections in domestic and feral cats: a seroepidemiological study". Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 37 (9): 2848–51. doi:10.1128/JCM.37.9.2848-2851.1999. PMC 85393. PMID 10449463.
  • Yu, SF; Baldwin, DN; Gwynn, SR; Yendapalli, S; Linial, ML (15 March 1996). "Human foamy virus replication: a pathway distinct from that of retroviruses and hepadnaviruses". Science. 271 (5255): 1579–82. Bibcode:1996Sci...271.1579Y. doi:10.1126/science.271.5255.1579. PMID 8599113.
  1. ^ "ICTV Taxonomy history: Feline foamy virus". International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Retrieved 10 January 2019.