Feline Infectious Peritonitis has for a very long time been a fatal disease.  The more acute and more virulent form of the disease, wet FIP kills within days to weeks of symptoms showing while the chronic form, dry FIP, may take up to even months. Traditionally FIP has been treated with immunosuppressive drugs, namely Prednisilone.  This has not been a treatment in the true sense of the word but more a palliative measure until it is time to help your precious cat cross the veil.

Research into FIP, what its causes are, how to prevent it and how to treat it or cure it, has been the focus of a few leading research teams around the world.  To date there has been no one treatment or drug that can totally annihilate the disease.  Each researcher has taken a different route – some are readily available while others still remain a pipe dream. In this regard there is a distinction tat needs to be drawn between what is happening in research labs and what cat parents are experimenting with on ground level.

I am sure some of you have read or heard the story of Lorenzo’s Oil?  This is a story that mimics what is happening in the world of cat parents and their FIP cats.  Desperation creates odd bedfellows. Lorenzo’s Oil is the true-life story of parents whose child has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease.  Starting to sound a bit like a parent and their FIP cat? Lorenzo’s mom is a driven and tenacious woman whose persistence and faith eventually leads to a cure.  Now we’re not quite at that point yet but many parents have been trying many things to prolong the life of or save their FIP-diagnosed cat.

These treatments are known as anecdotal.  Some have been looked at by researchers, but because they’re not working in real-life scenarios or the research is outdated or for whatever reason many of these have been snubbed.

The first of these is the drug Feline Omega Interferon (FOI).  FOI is a very broad ranging medicine helping with many viral disease such as FeLV, FIV and even stomatitis and gingivitis. Not available in South Africa but there is a protocol in place to bring it in. Virbac France is the manufacturer of Virbagen Omega. FOI is an antiviral and it works on reducing the viral load.  It was tested years ago on cats with wet FIP and the effusion did clear up but given time the effusion slowly returned. So researchers threw that out the window. BUT, FOI was working.  It reduced the amount of fluid present and what some parents did was to introduce a biological that for a while has seen a number of cats with dry FIP become long time survivors.

Polyprenyl Immunostimulant is a biological manufactured by USA company Vetimmune.  It is FDA registered for use for FRV and is an effective immune stimulant. Dr Alfred Legendre together with Vetimmune has conducted research into the use of PI as a treatment for FIP.  And the results have been positive.  Survival rates of 30% have been noted and there are many on-the-ground cases of cats surviving long term, that is over a year, using PI.  South Africa had their first long term survivor in a cat named Benji. Sadly a short while after Benji celebrated a full year suing PI and 14 months post diagnosis his dry FIP turned to wet and at 18 months after being diagnosed Benji lost his fight against FIP.  However, there are any number of other cats on facebook who are surviving 4 to 6 to even 10 years post diagnosis.

The thinking was that is FOI reduces the amount of effusion then the cat is really now more dry than wet FIP and so some parents trialed using FOI and PI in conjunction.  One case, a cat in Poland survived wet FIP past 7 months. Another cat in China is now 14 months post diagnosis and still doing well.  But researchers will say that FOI was ineffective and PI is an untrialed biological. The truth though are in the real life cases of cats surviving 1 year, 2 years, 4 years and even up to 10 years on these treatments.

Recently much has been pubilicised about a trial of the protease inhibitor GC376.  The trial was conducted through UC Davis.  This trial though is a mark of good publicity.  It has presented a 30% success rate (exactly that seen with PI) yet it is touted as a miracle cure when PI isn’t.  In Addition GC376 doesn’t come cheaply – not in the USA that is.  The trial cost over a quarter million US$ per cat, there were risks of injection site sarcomas as the drug had to be injected twice daily over a period of 16 weeks.  Of the 20 cats on the trial 13 died and 6 have been followed.  The 7th cat is a mystery.  Since the trial all but 2 of the cats are still being publicised.  The remainder have faded into anonymity.  Oddly however, the protease inhibitor GC376 is being used in China.  The drug there is a fraction of the cost and freely available but to date it has not been allowed to be exported out of China.

We in South Africa do not have ready access to any of the above.  PI can be obtained with a permit.  It is however costly and this is where Project Fight FIP in South Africa comes in.  Funds are raised to help subsidise the cost of treatment.  All Benj’s PI was subsidized by 50 – 60% of the total cost for the duration of the year he used it.  We now have another cat Cujo who is starting PI within this month.  Till now though Cujo has been on a treatment protocol of Roferon-A and Moducare as suggested by Dr Diane Addie.  Roferon-A can be used in the same manner as FOI – injected insitu until fluid dissipates and then orally.  However with any human interferon cats will build up a resistance to it’s efficacy after 6 – 8 weeks.  Moducare is an immune modulator that appears to be effective in some cases but dosage then is at double what would normally be given.   It does target the T-cells which is what PI does.  A third cat in South Africa, Dexter was diagnosed presumptively with wet FIP.  The fluid was in the chest and caught early Dexter as given Roferon-A and 2 capsules of Moducare per day.  Five months on and Dexter is a healthy and happy tuxie enjoying life.

There are many factors at play as to how effective a treatment will be or won’t be given a diagnosis of FIP.  One of the criteria is time, how quickly cn the cat be put onto treatment, secondly how soon is the diagnosis made – when made in the early onset stage of the disease treatment will be more effective.  Another factor is where if the mutated virus sitting.  Which organs, where is there fluid – each of these plays a factor.

Many other drugs have been tried and many are on the drawing board but at this time only those that can be obtained have been discussed.

Written by Aurora Lambrecht