Jasper belonged to Dr. Julia Beatty, lead investigator, and was positive for the new virus. The team had tested a residual blood sample that had been stored from him in 2013.
Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers and found a previously undiscovered hepadnavirus in an immunocompromised cat, and subsequently in banked feline blood samples. The domestic cat hepadnavirus is in the same family as hepatitis B virus of people. Beatty noted that similar viruses can cause hepatitis and liver cancers in other species. Dr. Kelly added that finding a new virus responsible for disease is the first step in developing a vaccine to prevent infection. It's especially exciting if the vaccine could prevent a future cancer from developing in immunocompromised or other vulnerable cats. The team first identified the virus in a feline immunodeficiency virus positive cat that died of lymphoma. A strong evidence of infection with the hepadnavirus in the banked samples was seen. The new virus was identified in 10 percent of the FIV-infected cats and 3.2 percent of non-FIV infected cats. Apart from its relevance for feline health, this discovery will help to understand how hepatitis viruses are evolving in all species.