OPEN Viruses | 19 May 2018
M Aghazadeh, M Shi, VR Barrs, AJ McLuckie, SA Lindsay, B Jameson, B Hampson, EC Holmes and JA Beatty
High-throughput transcriptome sequencing allows for the unbiased detection of viruses in host tissues. The application of this technique to immunosuppressed animals facilitates the detection of viruses that might otherwise be excluded or contained in immunocompetent individuals. To identify potential viral pathogens infecting domestic cats we performed high-throughput transcriptome sequencing of tissues from cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). A novel member of the Hepadnaviridae, tentatively named domestic cat hepadnavirus, was discovered in a lymphoma sample and its complete 3187 bp genome characterized. Phylogenetic analysis placed the domestic cat hepadnavirus as a divergent member of mammalian orthohepadnaviruses that exhibits no close relationship to any other virus. DNA extracted from whole blood from pet cats was positive for the novel hepadnavirus by PCR in 6 of 60 (10%) FIV-infected cats and 2 of 63 (3.2%) FIV-uninfected cats. The higher prevalence of hepadnavirus viraemia detected in FIV-infected cats mirrors that seen in human immunodeficiency virus-infected humans coinfected with hepatitis B virus. In summary, we report the first hepadnavirus infection in a carnivore and the first in a companion animal. The natural history, epidemiology and pathogenic potential of domestic cat hepadnavirus merits additional investigation.
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