Scientists have found that a coronavirus strain that has killed at least 8,000 cats in Cyprus has spread to the UK.
A cat brought to the UK from the Mediterranean island was found to be infected, sparking fear it has spread to other British pets.
The highly infectious strain has been identified as a hybrid of existing feline coronavirus and canine coronavirus called F-CoV-23.
It is not linked to Covid-19.
The cat is understood to have developed symptoms in the UK and has been sent for treatment following isolation.
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Veterinary College and the Cypriot government found it has the ‘same genetic fingerprint’ as the new virus, killing at least 8,000 cats in the first half of 2023.
Human Covid treatments are now being used to help curb the outbreak.
Scientists have warned there is a ‘significant risk’ of the outbreak spreading further in a study published before it has been peer-reviewed.
“This is exemplified by the recent confirmation of a first UK-imported case with further investigations into other cases ongoing,” they added.
The combination of canine and feline coronaviruses – including the cat virus gaining the dog pathogen’s spike protein – has become more infectious.
Before the new strain’s evolution, the coronavirus lay dormant in cats, and most cases never developed further.
Cats diagnosed with feline infection peritonitis – caused by the coronavirus – become lethargic and develop a fever, a swollen abdomen and inflammation.
It is nearly always fatal unless treated. (source Metro)