Feline coronavirus genetic elements were detected by polymerase chain reaction from blood, fecal samples, and effusive fluid collected from 33 cheetahs in the U.S.A. Feline coronavirus-specific serum antibodies were also measured by indirect immunofluorescence. Ten cheetahs were positive for viral shedding by polymerase chain reaction, whereas 13 were seropositive by immunofluorescence. Results of serology did not consistently correlate with shedding of virus, and the capture antigen used for detection of feline coronavirus-specific antibodies had a significant impact on results. Testing of samples from one population over a 1-yr period indicated chronic infection in some animals. These relatively healthy carrier animals were a source of virus for contact animals. Screening programs in cheetah populations for feline coronavirus infection may be most reliable if a combination of serologic analysis and viral detection by polymerase chain reaction is used.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1