First U.S.-Approved Vaccine Against an Immunodeficiency Virus Will Target Cats; ‘Boosts Hope’ of Similar HIV Vaccine
A vaccine that protects cats against feline immunodeficiency virus, which is "closely related" to HIV because it also attacks the immune system, has become the first vaccine for an immunodeficiency virus to gain approval from the U.S. government, "boost[ing] hopes" that a similar vaccine could work in humans, the Sacramento Bee reports. FIV affects about 1% to 5% of outdoor cats and is thought to be transmitted through saliva, not sexual contact. The virus does not infect humans. The cat vaccine, developed by Janet Yamamoto at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis, received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday and should be available through veterinarians this summer. The vaccine uses two "relatively mild" strains of FIV and produced a protective effect in 67% of the cats that were inoculated in clinical trials. Like HIV, FIV's outer coat can mutate, presenting vaccine researchers with a challenge. However, FIV's outer coat does not mutate as rapidly as the HIV outer coat, allowing researchers more time to work on a single vaccine, according to Yamamoto, who started her career as an HIV researcher. She has now resumed working on HIV, applying what she has learned from FIV. "I owe the cats a lot," she said (Lau, Sacramento Bee, 3/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.