Domestic Cats Are Susceptible to Infection With Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses From Shorebirds

E. A. Driskell, C. A. Jones, R. D. Berghaus, D. E. Stallknecht, E. W. Howerth, S. M. Tompkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Domestic cats are susceptible to infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1, resulting in pneumonia and in some cases, systemic spread with lesions in multiple organ systems. Recent transmission of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus from humans to cats also resulted in severe pneumonia in cats. Data regarding the susceptibility of cats to other influenza viruses is minimal, especially regarding susceptibility to low pathogenic avian influenza viruses from wild birds, the reservoir host. In this study, the authors infected 5-month-old cats using 2 different North American shorebird avian influenza viruses (H1N9 and H6N4 subtypes), 3 cats per virus, with the goal of expanding the understanding of avian influenza virus infections in this species. These viruses replicated in inoculated cats based on virus isolation from the pharynx in 2 cats, virus isolation from the lung of 1 cat, and antigen presence in the lung via immunohistochemistry in 2 cats. There was also seroconversion and lesions of patchy bronchointerstitial pneumonia in all of the cats. Infection in the cats did not result in clinical disease and led to variable pharyngeal viral shedding with only 1 of the viruses; virus was localized in the alveolar epithelium via immunohistochemistry. These findings demonstrate the capacity of wild bird influenza viruses to infect cats, and further investigation is warranted into the pathogenesis of these viruses in cats from both a veterinary medical and public health perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalVeterinary pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • avian influenza
  • cats
  • low pathogenic
  • pneumonia
  • wild birds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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