Cat HIV a threat to SA lions

2014-04-08 09:25

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Cape Town – A group of researchers, in an effort to understand how lions interact with one another, is looking at a mysterious disease similar to HIV dubbed "cat HIV".

According to a report on IOL, researchers from the University of Stellenbosch are working in conjunction with SanParks to evaluate lion prides in the Kruger National Park.

The team is trying to determine how prevalent the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is among lion prides and what the disease actually does to the lion's body. 

The symptoms of FIV are very similar to HIV in that both diseases cause immune depletion, renal disease, oral lesions and inflammation. Infection from other diseases is strengthened because the immune system is so low.

There have been numerous strains of FIV found in the feline family and based on scientific studies the strains seem to be specific to the host or type of cat.

There is very little information though to understand how the disease affects lions in the wild.

Dr Danny Govender, a member of SanParks said that the new work conducted with Stellenbosch University will allow scientists to understand how prevalent the disease is among lion populations in Southern Africa and whether the disease impacts lion interaction.

According to Govender FIV is mainly transmitted through bites and scratches, as opposed to HIV where the disease is mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse.

Tanya Kerr, a researcher with the project noted that if one member of the pride is infected with FIV, most of the other members become infected as well.

The researchers believe that FIV is transmitted mainly through aggressive fights.

The team has yet to discover whether mothers can infect their cubs with the disease.

The feeding process is also being studied at by the team. The researchers believe that when lions fight over their prey and share food the transfer of saliva can increase the rate of infection. 
Read more on:    sanparks  |  johannesburg  |  animals  |  environment  |  health

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