Recent work by researchers at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Boston University School of Medicine, and other institutions has identified feline morbillivirus among domestic cats in the United States. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of morbillivirus infection in domestic cats outside Asia.
Originally isolated in a group of cats with inflammatory kidney damage in China in 2012 (and subsequently found in cats in Japan), researchers have postulated that chronic infection by this virus may be involved in the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats. Immediately following these initial reports, studies funded by the Cornell Feline Health Center’s Rapid Response Fund found no evidence of morbillivirus among a sampling of cats in the U.S.
In this new study, approximately 3% of the 327 cats studied showed evidence of morbillivirus DNA in their urine. Of these, 30% had evidence of kidney problems. One cat exhibited a chronic, 15-month-long infection. Although much more research is necessary to determine whether morbillivirus contributes to feline CKD, the finding of chronic infection, and of CKD in some cats infected with this virus, raises concern that chronic morbillivirus infection could contribute to feline CKD.