To obtain more insights into the prevalence and diversity of species-specific Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) strains in naturally occurring felid species, 26 leopards (Panthera pardus) from the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, were sampled. Prevalence was determined using a PCR protocol designed to target a 577 bp fragment in the pol-RT gene. Overall prevalence of FIVPpa was estimated at 73%, with no difference in prevalence between male and female leopards. Consistent with previous FIV studies on other felid species, prevalence appears to increase with age (adult = 84%; subadult = 43%). Phylogenetic analyses of these novel sequences were conducted against a revised FIV pol-RT species-specific reference dataset using both Bayesian and maximum likelihood methods. Within FIVPpa two distinct evolutionary groupings are present, which suggests the possibility of geographic variation within FIVPpa and the possibility of distinct subtypes, similar to what has been found in lions (Panthera leo) and domestic cats (Felis catus). The larger FIVPpa dataset provides newinsights into the epidemiology of this under-studied FIV strain and with such high prevalence rates, further studies should focus on immunological and clinical consequences of FIV in wild felids.
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