Monday, January 13, 2014


A 1970's style appetiser...which bears a striking resemblance to coronavirus.
I was invited to a birthday party this week and the theme was food from the 1970s. When I walked in I was struck by this incredible, edible centrepiece which looks much like a coronavirus (check for yourself here and here). 

Coronaviruses are famous as the agents behind severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS but also gastrointestinal upsets in dogs (it tends to cause self-limiting diarrhoea in dogs, especially puppies, though can be extremely serious where co-infection with parvovirus occurs) and cats.

You can see coronavirus junior just behind.
The big problem is that it is also the agent behind feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), an invariably fatal syndrome that is challenging to diagnose (Dr Diane Addie's website is a particularly helpful resource) and I can attest absolutely heartbreaking.

Needless to say, looking at this appetiser sucked me into a vortex of thinking about FIP. Not the kind of vortex 70's themed parties are famous for I am sure. 

I was fortunate enough to complete a thesis on FIP under the supervision of Dr Jacqui Norris during my veterinary degree. Some progress has been made since then, including use of interferon to extend the lives of some cats, and importantly, the use of immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry to help secure a rapid diagnosis.

We know that risk factors for FIP include exposure to feline enteric coronavirus, exposure to a high viral load (e.g. in a multi cat household or cattery), being purebred (may be due to breed or individual line susceptibility, or could relate to being in a cattery) or stress (recent surgery such as desexing, stay in a cattery/boarding, environmental change such as moving house, co-infection with other agents). To an extent these can be minimised, but there's no failsafe way to prevent infection.

Which is all a bit of a downer. So I steered clear of the coronavirus appetiser and opted for this bizarre yet apparently benign pineapple creation with a prune chaser.
Pineapple dessert. I'm sure this too resembles a virus but fortunately I know not which.