Duration of antibody response following vaccination against feline immunodeficiency virus

Mark E Westman, Richard Malik, Evelyn Hall, Matthew Harris, Margaret J Hosie, Jacqueline M Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)



Recently, two point-of-care (PoC) feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) antibody test kits (Witness and Anigen Rapid) were reported as being able to differentiate FIV-vaccinated from FIV-infected cats at a single time point, irrespective of the gap between testing and last vaccination (0–7 years). The aim of the current study was to investigate systematically anti-FIV antibody production over time in response to the recommended primary FIV vaccination series.


First, residual plasma from the original study was tested using a laboratory-based ELISA to determine whether negative results with PoC testing were due to reduced as opposed to absent antibodies to gp40. Second, a prospective study was performed using immunologically naive client-owned kittens and cats given a primary FIV vaccination series using a commercially available inactivated whole cell/inactivated whole virus vaccine (Fel-O-Vax FIV, three subcutaneous injections at 4 week intervals) and tested systematically (up to 11 times) over 6 months, using four commercially available PoC FIV antibody kits (SNAP FIV/FeLV Combo [detects antibodies to p15/p24], Witness FeLV/FIV [gp40], Anigen Rapid FIV/FeLV [p24/gp40] and VetScan FeLV/FIV Rapid [p24]).


The laboratory-based ELISA showed cats from the original study vaccinated within the previous 0–15 months had detectable levels of antibodies to gp40, despite testing negative with two kits that use gp40 as a capture antigen (Witness and Anigen Rapid kits). The prospective study showed that antibody testing with SNAP Combo and VetScan Rapid was positive in all cats 2 weeks after the second primary FIV vaccination, and remained positive for the duration of the study (12/12 and 10/12 cats positive, respectively). Antibody testing with Witness and Anigen Rapid was also positive in a high proportion of cats 2 weeks after the second primary FIV vaccination (8/12 and 7/12, respectively), but antibody levels declined below the level of detection in most cats (10/12) by 1 month after the third (final) primary FIV vaccination. All cats tested negative using Witness and Anigen Rapid 6 months after the third primary FIV vaccination.

Conclusions and relevance

This study has shown that a primary course of FIV vaccination does not interfere with FIV antibody testing in cats using Witness and Anigen Rapid, provided primary vaccination has not occurred within the previous 6 months. Consequently, Witness and Anigen Rapid antibody test kits can be used reliably to determine FIV infection status at the time of annual booster FIV vaccination to help detect ‘vaccine breakthroughs’ and in cats that have not received a primary course of FIV vaccination within the preceding 6 months. The duration of antibody response following annual booster FIV vaccination and the resulting effect on antibody testing using PoC kits needs to be determined by further research. The mechanism(s) for the variation in FIV antibody test kit performance remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1064
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Issue number10
Early online dateOct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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