Multicentric T-cell lymphoma associated with feline leukemia virus infection in a captive Namibian cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

  • July 1, 2003
  • by Marker L. L., L. Munson, P.A. Basson, S. Quackenbush


This case report describes a multicentric lymphoma in a 4 yr old female wildborn captive cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in Namibia after being housed in an enclosure adjacent to a feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infected cheetah that had previously been in contact with domestic cats. The year prior to the onset of clinical signs, the wild-born cheetah was FeLV antigen negative. The cheetah subsequently developed lymphoma, was found to be infected with FeLV, and then rapidly deteriorated and died. At necropsy, the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and multiple other organs were extensively infiltrated with neoplastic T-lymphocytes. Feline leukemia virus DNA was identified in neoplastic lymphocytes from multiple organs by polymerase chain reaction and Southern blot analysis. Although the outcome of infection in this cheetah resembles that of FeLV infections in domestic cats, the transmission across an enclosure fence was unusual and may indicate a heightened susceptibility to infection in cheetahs. Caution should be exercised in holding and translocating cheetahs where contact could be made with FeLV-infected domestic, feral, or wild felids.

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