By Elisa Black-Taylor
Today I’d like to discuss promising new medical breakthroughs in treating FIV, FeLV and FIP in cats. While the new medications aren’t a cure, they do buy an infected cat some time, as well as improve their quality of life. I’m especially excited about a breakthrough in FIP. More on that later.
- FIV = Feline immunodeficiency virus
- FIP = Feline Infectious Peritonitis
- FeLV = Feline leukemia virus
FIV and FeLV
T-Cyte Therapeutics, Inc. has created a drug called LTCI (Lymphocyte T-Cell Immunomodulator). This drug has been around since 2008 and was approved for use in the U.S. in February 2009. The drug is classified as a lymphocyte T-cell immune modulator. This means it improves the immune system so a cat has a better chance at fighting off an infection. It’s used to treat cell abnormalities and opportunistic infections. LTCI is the only USDA approved drug to treat FIV and FeLV in cats.
The development of LTCI has an interesting history that can be found here. Dr. Terry Beardsley, a graduate of Baylor College of Medicine, set out to find a treatment that would mirror the body’s ability to fight infection. He used FIV and FeLV positive cats in his studies as he searched for a drug to treat HIV/AIDS. He’s the founder of T-Cyte Therapeutics, Inc.
The USDA granted T-Cyte a conditional license to test the drug using a study of 23 infected cats, of which 22 completed the study. The drug had no notable adverse reactions and their blood work showed marked improvement. This wasn’t a very large study, but individual cat owner’s are now spreading the word as to how LTCI saved their cats.
I would imagine the success of the drug is also influenced by how long the cat has carried the disease.
LTCI works by increasing the number of lymphocytes in the blood, as well as increasing red blood cell production. The increase in red blood cells will help a cat fight anemia. It also increases Interleukin 2 (IL-2) production, which helps the body fight off viruses and other infections.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition lists IL-2 as: an interleukin produced by antigen-stimulated helper T cells in the presence of interleukin-1 that induces proliferation of immune cells (as T cells and B cells) and is used experimentally especially in treating certain cancers.
A list of veterinary clinics currently using the drug can be found at by using this search facility.
Here’s the information to give your vet (if your vet isn’t familiar with the treatment) should you wish to use the drug on your cat:
- In the USA, T-Cyte Therapeutics phone number is (1-800-483-2104).
- Agrilabs, another carrier of the drug, can be contacted at (1-800)542-8916.
- Abroad it can be ordered from Masters Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Unit 380, Centennial Avenue, Centennial Park, Elstree, Hertfordshire, WD6 3TJ, UK and their phone number is (0208 327 0900).
Please note I didn’t call or try to contact the suppliers of LTCI. Hopefully your clinic may already be using it on some of their patients.
Now for the exciting news! As though the success of LTCI in treating FIV and FeLV cats isn’t enough, LTCI is also being used to treat cats with FIP. I won’t go into all of the symptoms and dangers of FIP because that would take up a lot of space.
I lost an 8 month old kitten named Tramp to FIP back in 1993. It’s a cat disease that’s always been considered fatal. I can tell you from experience how horrible it is to know there’s little hope once your cat contracts FIP. There are several stories of hope written by average cat owners about their experience using the drug on their FIP cat.One is at http://www.examiner.com/article/miracle-girl-fip-couldn-t-kill-me. Whether LTCI is a treatment or a cure, cats who receive the drug are living longer with their disease.
The LTCI regimen consists of a series of injections. A typical schedule is one injection weekly for three weeks, a fourth injection two weeks later, a fifth injection two weeks after that, and a sixth injection one month after that. Then a booster injection is needed every six weeks. I did reference where one vet had given a total of 21 injections to an infected cat. I don’t know whether there’s a maximum number of doses a cat may be given or if there’s a cut off point. Since the drug has shown to have no bad side effects, perhaps it can be given for the life of the cat.
Use in FIP cats is classified as “off-label,” which means a vet can use it for a use other than what is was developed for. Unfortunately, some states may have laws limiting the use of an off-label drug.
The cost per injection is usually under $50 if ordered in packs of 4-6 from a manufacturer. A private vet may charge $110 or more per injection.
I’ve used quite a few reference articles in gathering the information for this article. Instead of giving the readers a long list, those of you wishing further information can Google “LTCI for cats” or “Tcyte for cats.” I also found a good bit by Googling “new FIV and FeLV treatments.”
Do any of the readers here have experience with this drug or know more about it than I’ve listed here? Any vets out there willing to comment? If so, did it show any marked improvement in your cats or the cats you treated?
One final question for the readers. How do you feel about the experimentation being done on cats who were FIV/FeLV positive to test a drug for treating HIV/AIDS? This is clearly a case where the cat has benefited from medical testing on animals. That doesn’t appear to happen very often.