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To use a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) DNA in conjunctiva or cornea from clinically normal cats and cats with conjunctivitis or corneal sequestra.


Conjunctival snip biopsy specimens from 50 cats with conjunctivitis and 50 clinically normal cats; 28 keratectomy specimens from 26 cats with sequestra, and 13 specimens from clinically normal cats.


Tissue specimens were digested, and FHV-1 DNA was amplified, using a double round of PCR. Products were visualized by use of agarose gel electrophoresis.


Polymerase chain reaction was positive in 27 of 50 (54%) conjunctival specimens from cats with conjunctivitis and 6 of 50 (12%) specimens from clinically normal cats. Difference in the results between cats with conjunctivitis and clinically normal cats was statistically significant. Polymerase chain reaction was positive in 5 of 28 (18%) corneal specimens from cats with sequestra and 6 of 13 (46%) clinically normal cats. Distribution of positive results between clinically normal cats and those with sequestra was not significant.


Cats with conjunctivitis were more likely to have a positive PCR result than were clinically normal cats, making it likely that FHV-1 was associated with the disease state. Herpesvirus DNA could not be detected in most corneas from cats with sequestra.

Clinical Relevance

Polymerase chain reaction is a useful clinical test for identifying FHV-1 DNA in cats with conjunctivitis, yielding greater sensitivity over that of currently available tests. Herpesvirus may be less of a cause of corneal sequestration in the commonly affected breeds, Himalayan and Persian, than other factors, such as lagophthalmos or corneal metabolic defects. (Am J Vet Res 1997;58:338–342)

Free access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research