Organization: San Francisco SPCA
Investigator(s): Jennifer Scarlett, DVM
Grant Amount: $40,000.00
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete
This San Francisco SPCA project evaluated a novel method, known as fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), for treating infectious diarrhea in kittens. Shelter cats and dogs, particularly kittens and puppies, are commonly affected by illnesses that cause diarrhea, which can lead to negative outcomes. At the outset, the study faced several challenges in enrolling the intended number of 90 kittens in the study. In 2019, 38 kittens diagnosed with panleukopenia were entered into the study. Based on prior years' data and number of kittens who present with panleukopenia, this was a lower number of available subjects than expected, and not a statistically significant sample size.
The objective of the project was: to evaluate the efficacy of FMT, which has had purported benefits when treating gastrointestinal (GI) and autoimmune diseases in humans, in treating kittens with diarrhea.
Kittens testing positive for panleukopenia were divided into control and test groups with random assignments using a random number generator. In cases where multiple cohoused kittens tested positive at the same time, animals remained cohoused when possible to maintain welfare and socialization. All cohoused animals were assigned the same treatment group. All kittens diagnosed with panleukopenia received supportive care.
Kittens in the FMT group were administered an enema consisting of fecal material from a healthy adult cat daily, for three days. Kittens were evaluated daily by medical staff to assess weight, stool quality and severity of illness. Kittens were tested for panleukopenia daily until they tested negative, passed away or were humanely euthanized based on veterinarian's evaluation of compromised welfare due to the severity of the disease.
While the sample size and results of this study did not rise to the level of statistical significance, the investigation of FMT in introducing healthy GI microbes in the GI tract as a low-cost, adjunct therapy may still be valuable to this and other age groups or disease processes.