Luna the Savannah Cat's Remarkable Cure From Deadly FIP With GS-441524 (EVO984)
Our First Pet: A Beautiful Savannah Cat
After careful research and education to learn about Savannah cats, and ultimately selecting a reputable breeder, Luna joined our family in March of 2017 at the age of 10 weeks. She was spunky, alert, playful, and in seemingly good health when I picked her up in Boston. Luna isn't your usual cat. She's exceedingly friendly, funny, quirky, overly loving, and loaded with personality. Luna exceeded all expectations of what we thought a Savannah cat would be. She quickly melded into our home and our hearts as our first pet.
Luna was due for her second feline distemper combination vaccine and a vet follow-up examination soon after her arrival. On April 13th, 2017, she received that vaccine, which is the routine protocol for most cats. After receiving the vaccine, Luna immediately started refusing to eat, was continually sleeping, and felt hot to the touch. My husband and I already thought she looked a little distended around her abdominal midline, and I made mention of this to the vet during this visit.
The only abnormality noted during her vet exam was a grade III heart murmur, which was thought to be benign, and she was deemed healthy. The plan was to reassess the heart murmur in a few months and consider a referral to a veterinary cardiologist if it didn't resolve. The distention was thought to be a "normal kitten belly," according to the vet.
Luna's FIP Diagnosis: The Right Place at the Right Time
The abdominal distention was worsening, so on April 21st, we took Luna to the veterinary emergency clinic. I'd already researched the causes of abdominal distention in kittens and read about feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). FIP was in the back of my mind; however, it's not relatively common, especially with the Savannah cat breed. I thought at the worst; it'd be a parasite.
The vet aspirated the fluid from her abdomen during the examination and brought it to the exam room in a specimen tube. She was sure, given the assessment of the fluid, lack of appetite, lethargy, and fever of 105 degrees, that Luna had the effusive (wet) form of FIP, which leads to fluid accumulation in the abdomen and chest. She told us about the grim prognosis, and she had a few days, to maybe two weeks at best. She suggested we come back in a few days for a consult with an internist to discuss any life-prolonging options and second opinion; or euthanize if her condition deteriorated over the weekend.
On April 24th, we saw the specialist for the second opinion. Luna had an echocardiogram, x-rays, ultrasound, and more blood tests, which served to confirm the diagnosis of FIP. This time was a long, grueling three days. We came to terms with the reality of losing our new baby while scrambling and researching to see what we could do to save her. FIP is 100% fatal, with no treatment or cure. How could this be happening? We had waited so long to get her (even having a terrible prior experience with another breeder three months earlier when trying to purchase a Savannah kitten).
There had to be a way to save her. As a nurse in a large teaching hospital, I am familiar with clinical trials and research. I thought to myself, "surely there's something out there in the works for FIP." I called and emailed every major veterinary college I could find online during that very long and grueling weekend of waiting to see the specialist.
Luna's Journey to U.C. Davis for a Life-Saving Drug Trial
To my surprise on April 23rd, I received a call back from Mike at UCD, assistant to Dr. Niels Pedersen (professor and researcher, has worked on a cure for FIP since the 1960s), with news of a new drug trial pending institutional approval. We discussed the details of Luna’s diagnosis and testing, and I was instructed to email her records and results. I received another call on the 24th to further discuss the trial and the possibility of flying with Luna to Sacramento if they could get the approval pushed through.
If we made it, Luna would be the first privately owned, naturally acquired FIP infected cat to start this new drug trial. To make this even more surprising, she was at the perfect age to respond to the drug, an anti-viral. Luna would go to their clinic for 5-10 days of drug trial and monitoring.
Time was limited, as she was deteriorating fast and with a fever of 105 degrees. Dr. Pedersen instructed us to stop the palliative medications, (feline omega interferon and prednisone) and to get there as soon as we could.
We made it Sacramento on April 28th, seven days after her diagnosis. Dr. Niels Pedersen explained the protocol in detail, complete with diagrams of how the drug works to stop viral replication. We then went to the room where Luna would stay for the next 5-10 days, and that's when she received her first injection, as well as a thorough examination.
Luna's Time at U.C. Davis With Dr. Niels Pedersen
The Anti-Viral Trial Drug Known as EVO984/GS-441524 Went to Work Immediately
Luna responded extremely fast to the drug called "EVO984/GS-441524," even seeing improvement in her fever and behavior, after only one injection. Luna responded so well; we were able to come home on day six. She would receive another 11 plus weeks of daily injections to complete her treatment regimen. It was like bringing home a healthy, new kitten, a kitten free from fever, malaise, and abdominal distention.
I continued to administer the anti-viral injections daily at home for a total of 12 weeks. Dr. Pedersen guided us the entire time as to when to have blood work repeated by our local vet. Dr. Pedersen reviewed the results, along with periodic weight checks, so her dosage could be adjusted accordingly.
As a side note, this is the second drug trial since 2016 conducted by UCD for FIP. The first drug, GC376, was able to put 5 out of 20 FIP cats into successful remission, who, to date, have not relapsed. Luna's drug, EVO984/GS-441524, has been even more successful, with approximately 26 cats achieving full remission and likely cured.
If you would like to read more about the FIP drug trials at UCD and the current status of the above anti-viral, here are credible links with current articles:
- A Glimmer of Hope For a Fatal Feline Disease
- Ending FIP: Is There Hope?
- Final paper on EVO984/GS441524. Luna is CT52
- Inappropriate use of GS-441524 in an attempt to eliminate Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV) from healthy cats
Important Note: Both trials at UCD are closed.
A Happy Ending for Luna and a Hopeful Future for Cats Diagnosed With FIP
Luna’s last injection of EVO984/GS-441524 was July 23rd, 2017. She's thriving, shows no signs of disease, and her lab work remains perfect today. She loves to go camping and on our backpacking adventures. She's hiked up to 13 miles with us, either walking on her harness or riding on the backpack. It's not every day that you see a cat on a leash or at a campsite!
Luna's been FIP-free for over two years with no signs of disease. She's living a normal, healthy life and is enjoying her three buddies, Savannah cats, Titan, Calypso, and Phoebe, whom we added in October 2017 and November 2018.
Steve Dale, animal behaviorist of Steve Dale's Pet World, interviewed me about Luna's drug trial. You can listen to the radio interview (Flash Player required) about Luna's journey, as well as any current information on the drug trials at U.C. Davis on their website.
Luna Loves Camping and Backpacking With Her HumansClick thumbnail to view full-size
Do You Have Experience With FIP?
Comments and feedback about your own experiences with FIP are most welcome. I value input from others and fully support you and your cat. Feel free to ask any questions about FIP and current treatment options and I'll do my best to direct you to the best resources.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Was the effusion drained during the study discussed in this article? Was any medicine given to boost the immune system of Luna during or after the trial? Was there any special food given during the drug trial?
No, we never drained the effusion; it will only come right back sadly. During the study, her fluid dissipated and was gone completely within five days. Luna was not given any other medications or immune boosters aside from the EVO984 trial drug. I fed Luna a mostly raw diet of turkey and chicken. I gave her canned food as well so that she could get the added nutrients. The food was grain free and as close to raw as I could get it. These are great questions! Thank you and if you have a cat with FIP, please visit my personal website (link is on my profile) for the most recent data from Dr. Pedersen on symptomatic treatment. I posted it last evening.Helpful 10
Is medicine for Feline Infectious Peritonitis available in Germany?
This medicine is not commercially available anywhere yet. Just a small amount was made for the trials. The United States FDA has to approve it and it can take years. The process is about a year underway, so they are hoping no more than 2 more years. It is being made in China, but they are only guessing at the formulation and charging horrendous amounts of money and there are no dosing calculations as it is dependent on weight, age, and type of FIP the cat has. To follow Luna's entire journey, you can go to my blog at www.debraroberts.net. The second it's available commercially, I will be spreading the word there.Helpful 7
Is EVO984 available in Germany? I lost my tomcat last month to FIP, and my other cat is Corona positive.
My condolences on the loss of your cat. FIP is so brutal. The medicine is not yet available anywhere sadly as it's still in the publication process of the trial and awaiting the US FDA approval and a drug company to take it on.Helpful 6
Did you feed any supplements to Luna during or after the treatment, what does Dr. Pedersen recommend?
No, we did not give Luna anything besides her medication and that was based on Dr. Pedersen's recommendations. His biggest advice was an all-meat diet (no grains, fillers, etc.)Helpful 3
My kitten, Chester, is currently being treated for FIP. Can you explain the particulars of the all-meat diet?
Feline diets are very specific. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat in their diet and need little carbohydrates. In the wild, cats prey on small animals, such as mice and birds; and as a pet, they are reliant on their owner's hand at feeding them. Because pet cats often don’t get the opportunity to hunt for their own food, it’s important for cat owners to mimic the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet their cat would naturally eat in the wild. What are you using to treat your cat for FIP? I wish you the best and hope for speedy healing!Helpful 1
© 2018 Debra Roberts