Renal alterations characterized morphologically by glomerular and tubulo-interstitial lesions and clinically by a heavy proteinuria and sometimes by renal failure are frequent in feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infected cats. To investigate the possible role of local FIV replication in the genesis of this renal damage, renal tissues of 15 consecutive naturally infected and five non-infected cats were examined for traces of the virus by immunohistochemistry, using a monoclonal anti-p24 antibody in a streptavidin-biotin peroxidase labeled system, cultivation and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Tubular epithelial cells as well as scattered interstitial inflammatory and glomerular cells were positive for p24 antigen in 13 cats. Viral isolation was successful in seven cats, and FIV gag DNA and RNA sequences were detected in 14 and five cats, respectively, Control cats were constantly negative. Although not conclusive, these results suggest that a direct role of FIV in the induction of the renal damage observed in infected animals is possible.
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