The main route of transmission is believed to be by inoculation of virus when biting. Large amounts of virus can be isolated from saliva, and transmission by biting has been demonstrated experimentally. Transplacental spread to fetuses has been demonstrated experimentally, but the occasional cases of spread from queen to kittens probably result from horizontal (e.g. virus in saliva or milk) transmission.

The biting theory of transmission fits in with the epidemiology of FIV infection: high risk groups are adult, male, free roaming or live in unstable colonies.

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