Infection of domestic cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) causes progressive immunological deterioration similar to that caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Lentiviruses related to but phylogenetically distinct from FIV have been detected in several non-domestic feline species. Serological cross-reactivity of these viruses raises the question as to whether inter-species transmission may occur. To address this issue, we asked whether lion lentivirus (FIV-Ple) or two strains of puma lentivirus (FIV-Pco) could replicate or cause disease in domestic cats. We found that domestic cats inoculated with FIV-Ple developed persistent cell-associated viraemia, transient cell-free viraemia and antiviral antibody. Clinical disease was not detected throughout a 6 month observation period. Two of four cats inoculated with FIV-Pco developed cell-associated viraemia, seroconverted and exhibited transient lymphadenopathy. No changes in white blood cell parameters or other haematological abnormalities were detected in any of the infected cats. Virus-specific RNA was detected in co-cultivated lymphocytes of all infected cats by RT-PCR. These findings reveal that non-domestic cat lentiviruses are infectious for domestic cats and can establish persistent infection in the absence of disease.


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