ISSN 2398-2950      

Domestic cat hepadnavirus


Synonym(s): DCH




  • Family: Hepadnaviridae
  • Genus: Orthohepadnavirus


  • From hēpar, meaning liver; and ‘dna’ indicating that it is a DNA virus.

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Clinical Effects



  • Domestic cats (unknown if it infects large cats).
  • Hepatotropic, although viremia is common in immunosuppressed hosts.


  • Cellular receptor is unknown.
  • The life cycle of hepadnaviruses is characterized by the synthesis of a ∼3-kb partially double-stranded, relaxed-circular DNA (rcDNA) genome by reverse transcription of an RNA intermediate, the pregenome.
  • Early events of the viral life cycle, including entry, uncoating, and delivery of the viral genome into the cell nucleus, are not well understood due to the absence of cell lines that are susceptible to hepadnavirus infection.


  • Likely mainly direct, but due to hardiness of the virus, indirect is also possible.
  • Indirect iatrogenic infection via blood transfusion or dental instruments is possible.
  • Persistent infection of some individuals is likely.

Pathological effects

  • Associated with chronic hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma in cats.

Other Host Effects


Control via animal

Control via chemotherapies

  • Interferon-α (IFN-α), which has anti-viral and immunomodulatory effects, is used to treat human hepatitis-B infection, therefore recombinant feline interferon omega Interferon (Virbagen Omega, Virbac, France) is likely to be of benefit, but this has not yet been examined.
  • Nucleoside phosphonates (eg tenofovir) are the anti-virals used in human hepadnavirus infection; use of a close analogue of tenofovir, (R)-9-(2-phosphonylmethoxypropyl)-2,6-diaminopurine ([R]-PMPDAP), has been reported to ameliorate feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection in the cat, but its use in DCH has not yet been reported.

Control via environment: avoiding iatrogenic and nosocomial virus transmission

  • The virus is susceptible to heat: washing food bowls, litter trays and bedding at 60oC will kill the virus.
  • Dental instruments should be sterilized between patients.
  • Needles for injections should not be re-used.
  • Operating kits should be scrubbed and autoclaved between patients.
  • Gloves should be changed between patients in the dental or operating theater.


  • Since no specific information is available for DCH, the precedent set in the human hepatitis B literature and extrapolated from Duck Hepatitis B Virus has been followed.
  • Since DCH is an enveloped virus, it is likely to be easily inactivated by most detergents.
  • Disinfectant: a 5% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) diluted in water used on surfaces that have already been scrubbed since bleach is inactivated by organic material: required contact time of 10 minutes.
  • When choosing a disinfectant for use around cats, be aware that deficiency of the enzyme UDP-glucuronosyl transferase renders the cat susceptible to the toxic effects of phenol-based disinfectants (including many essential oils).
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds Benzalkonium chloride toxicity are not recommended for the cat.
  • Heat sterilization at 160 ℃ for 1 h.
  • Autoclave at 121 ℃ for 20 min.
  • The minimal concentrations and contact times for the virucidal activity of ethanol, isopropanol, peracetic acid, glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde against duck hepatitis B virus in the presence of a protein load of 10% fetal calf serum are as follows:
    • Ethanol 80% at 11oC for 2 minutes.
    • Isopropanol 70% for 2 minutes.
    • Peracetic acid 0.01% for 2 minutes or 0.05% for 1 minute.
    • Glutaraldehyde 2% at room temperature  for 5 minutes and at 98oC for 2 minutes.
    • Formaldehyde 2% for 2-30 minutes.


  • No specific feline vaccine exists.
  • Phylogenetic trees place DCH fairly close to human hepatitis B virus, but whether the human HBV vaccine would cross-protect cats has not been investigated.

Other countermeasures

  • Until an effective vaccine is introduced or an effective anti-viral is found, control at present relies upon testing and segregating infected from uninfected cats.
  • Different alcohols and commercially available hand antiseptics had a virucidal effect against HBV and therefore probably also DCH.
  • Virus shedding is believed to be long lasting: at least several weeks. Persistent infection is probable.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Lanave G, Capozza P, Diakoudi G et al (2019) Identification of hepadnavirus in the sera of cats. Sci Rep 9 (1), 10668 PubMed.
  • Pesavento P A, Jackson K, Hampson T S T T B et al (2019) A Novel Hepadnavirus is Associated with Chronic Hepatitis and Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Cats. Viruses 11 (10), E969 PubMed.
  • Aghazadeh M, Shi M, Barrs V R et al (2018) A Novel Hepadnavirus Identified in an Immunocompromised Domestic Cat in Australia. Viruses 10 (5), E269 PubMed.
  • Addie D D, Boucraut-Baralon C, Egberink H et al (2015) Disinfectant choices in veterinary practices, shelters and households: ABCD guidelines on safe and effective disinfection for feline environments. J Feline Med Surg 17 (7), 594-605 PubMed.
  • Taffin E, Paepe D, Goris N et al (2015) Antiviral treatment of feline immunodeficiency virus-infected cats with (R)-9-(2-phosphonylmethoxypropyl)-2,6-diaminopurine. J Feline Med Surg 17 (2), 79-86 PubMed.
  • Sauerbrei A (2014) Is hepatitis B-virucidal validation of biocides possible with the use of surrogates? World J Gastroenterol 20 (2), 436-444 PubMed.
  • De Clercq E (2003) Clinical potential of the acyclic nucleoside phosphonates cidofovir, adefovir, and tenofovir in treatment of DNA virus and retrovirus infections. Clin Microbiol Rev 16 (4), 569-596 PubMed.


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