Feline leukemia virus outbreak in the critically endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus): high-throughput sequencing of envelope variable region A and experimental transmission
The Iberian lynx is the most endangered felid species. During winter/spring 2006/7, a feline leukemia virus (FeLV) outbreak of unexpected virulence killed about 2/3 of the infected Iberian lynxes. All FeLV-positive animals were co-infected with feline hemoplasmas. To further characterize the Iberian lynx FeLV strain and evaluate its potential virulence, the FeLV envelope gene variable region A (VRA) mutant spectrum was analyzed using the Roche 454 sequencing technology, and an in vivo transmission study of lynx blood to specified-pathogen-free cats was performed. VRA mutations indicated weak apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme and catalytic polypeptide-like cytidine deaminase (APOBEC) restriction of FeLV replication, and variants characteristic of aggressive FeLV strains, such as FeLV-C or FeLV-A/61C, were not detected. Cats exposed to FeLV/Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum-positive lynx blood did not show a particularly severe outcome of infection. The results underscore the special susceptibility of Iberian lynxes to infectious diseases.