Animal research

Study offers path to diagnosing gut conditions in cats

Biological molecules found in blood serum could be used to distinguish between gastrointestinal cancer and chronic bowel inflammatory diseases, pilot study finds.

4 different breeds of cats

Scientists have taken an initial step towards a potential method to distinguish between gastrointestinal cancer and chronic bowel inflammation in cats.

Their approach, initially developed for dogs, explores the use of molecules found in blood or faecal samples to identify whether a cat may be suffering from gastrointestinal inflammation or cancer, whose clinical signs are similar.

Findings showed one of these markers could be used to develop a less invasive, more reliable, and ultimately more effective way to diagnose gastrointestinal conditions compared with current techniques.

Promising frontier

Researchers from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and University of Copenhagen studied blood samples from healthy cats, to establish baseline genetic profiles to compare against samples from sick cats.

Advanced techniques were used to study small fragments of genetic material, known as microRNA, found in blood serum and faecal samples from healthy and unwell cats.

A particular molecule, miR-223-3p, was found to be important in distinguishing between cancer and chronic inflammation diagnosis in blood.

Results of this early-stage work point to a blood test as a promising way forward, and further studies are needed to expand on this marker as a novel test for gastrointestinal conditions in cats, researchers say.

This research was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, led by the University of Copenhagen in collaboration with colleagues in Denmark, Norway, Spain, and Glasgow. The project was funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Vet professionals face a difficult task when diagnosing chronic bowel inflammation or cancer in felines, as symptoms for both conditions are often very similar. Through an international collaborative effort, our research underscores the potential of microRNAs as a diagnostic tool for veterinary medicine. Developing this method further could offer a good alternative to current approaches.

Professor Silke Salavati, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

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