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News Article

Hepadnavirus may be linked to liver disease and cancer in cats

Researchers find an association between a novel hepadnavirus and some cases of chronic hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma in the cat

A virus discovered last year by University of Sydney researchers is believed to be a significant factor in the development of liver cancer in cats. The findings are published in the journal Viruses.

Julia Beatty, Professor of Feline Medicine at the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science, said the findings were exciting because it’s a step towards understanding if more cancers are caused by viruses.

“We don’t know what causes most types of cancer but if we know it’s triggered by a virus we can develop treatments and vaccinations that target the virus instead of administering anti-cancer drugs,” Professor Beatty said.

Together with collaborators at University of California Davis, Professor Patricia Pesavento, and others in the UK and New Zealand, Professor Beatty’s team has found the recently discovered hepatitis B-like virus, called Domestic cat hepadnavirus (DCH), in certain types of hepatitis and liver cancer in cats. The significance of this research is that it suggests that DCH can cause liver diseases, including cancer in cats.

DCH infection appears to be common in companion cats with the virus detected in 6.5 percent and 10.8 percent of pet cats in Australia and Italy respectively. “It is important to reassure pet owners of two things,” said Professor Beatty. “First, being infected with the virus doesn’t mean that your cat will become sick, and second, there is no risk to humans – you can’t catch this virus from your pet.”

The feline virus is like hepatitis B in people, Professor Beatty said.

“Hepatitis B in people is a major global concern because it can lead to liver cancer and chronic hepatitis,” she said. “We wanted to know if the virus in cats does the same thing. We’ve found evidence that it probably does.”

Article: Pesavento, P.A., Jackson, K., Scase, T., Tse, T., Hampson, B., Munday, J. S., Barrs, V. R., Beatty, J. A. (2019). A Novel Hepadnavirus is Associated with Chronic Hepatitis and Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Cats. Viruses 11(10), 969. doi: 10.3390/v11100969

Article details

  • Date
  • 29 October 2019
  • Source
  • University of Sydney
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals