Ten European wildcats (Felis silvestris) were examined at necropsy and an additional 23 were examined clinically for evidence of viral diseases in Scotland. Two plasma samples taken from live free-living wildcats showed positive ELISA reactions to feline leukemia antigen. A feline leukemia virus of subgroup A was isolated from one of these samples, taken from a wildcat in north-western Scotland. No antibodies to feline coronavirus or feline immunodeficiency virus were detected in any sample. Three of the live wildcats and one of the dead had chronic mucopurulent rhinotracheitis suggestive of “cat flu.” One other dead wildcat had diffuse enlargement of anterior lymph nodes. The findings indicated that feline leukemia virus infection can occur in free-living Felis silvestris. It is possible that the disease exists as a sustained infection in some wildcat populations, although the close interaction between wildcat and the domestic cat means that the latter could act as a continual source of infection.
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Vol. 27 • No. 4