The first phase of clinical trials for a drug that could cure FIP ended this fall.
In a study published in the March issue of PLOS, researchers at Kansas State University treated eight cats who were sick from FIP with the antiviral protease inhibitor, GC376. Sadly, two of the cats became so sick they were euthanized. But the other six recovered and were still doing well eight months later. And that was just the beginning.
Last winter, in collaboration with the Kansas State Researchers, UC Davis veterinarian Niels Pedersen began the first phase of clinical trials of GC376 with 13 "owned" cats.
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is caused by a coronavirus that infects almost all kittens. It causes mild diarrhea, and then pretty much disappears. But in some cats, it goes rogue and mutates into the deadly disease we call FIP.
While most FIP victims are kittens, the virus can remain dormant in some cats' bodies for years and doesn't make them sick until they're well into adulthood or even old age.
Signs of FIP can include abdominal swelling, weight loss, an unkempt coat and mental dullness. Once a cat gets sick, there's not much to do but provide palliative care.
The Cure For FIP Is Still A Long Way Off
In the first phase of the clinical trials, Pedersen and his team looked at optimal doses and what forms of FIP and the length of illness were most responsive to treatment with GC376.
They learned that treatment requires at least 12 weeks and will cause a rapid reversal of FIP in some, but not all, cats.
One of the questions that remains to be answered is how long the remission will last.
But even after the researchers have finished gathering information, it could be a long time before GC376 is available to veterinarians.
First, Pedersen said in an interview with Catster, they'll need to find a pharmaceutical company that's willing to take GC376 through the long and expensive Federal Drug Administration testing and approval process.
Since "a company may not find it economically viable to spend the money necessary to gain FDA approval for a disease for a single animal species such as FIP," he added, "I would not want to speculate on if and when this particular drug may become commercially available for use by veterinarians."
Help For Cats With FIP Now
While GC376 may still be a long way from your vet's office, there are things to do for cats with FIP now.Prednisone, interferons and some supplements and antioxidants can extend the length of life and improve the quality of life for cats with FIP.
To learn about treatments, take a look at leading FIP researcher Diane Addie's handout for veterinarians. And join the Support and Info for Owners of FIP cats email list on Yahoo Groups or the group's FIP Fighters Facebook page. You'll find all the information and support you need if you're caring for an FIP cat.