2008 Grant Award: The Role of Bacteria in Feline Pancreatitis

The International Feline Foundation has awarded its 2008 grant to Dr. David Twedt of Colorado State University (in partnership with Dr. Kenneth Simpson of Cornell University) for a project entitled “Investigation of the Role of Bacteria in the Etiology of Feline Pancreatitis”. The grant award amount was $9,990.


Pancreatitis is reported to occur in 1.3% of the feline population, with 2/3 of these cats having chronic pancreatitis.  Chronic pancreatitis occurs in older cats; common signs include chronic debilitation associated with anorexia, vomiting and weight loss.  Diabetes mellitus and pancreatic insufficiency may result.  The cause of pancreatitis is unknown, and treatment modalities have been ineffective to date.  Many cats having pancreatitis also have liver disease (cholangitis) associated with chronic inflammation of bile ducts of the liver.  The microscopic changes showing inflammation around pancreatic ducts has a similar appearance to that in the bile ducts.  In cats, the pancreatic duct and bile duct connect before they enter the intestinal tract.  It is this ductal relationship that may account for the frequent association of pancreatitis and concurrent cholangitis.  We have shown, using special staining techniques, the presence of bacteria in and around bile ducts of the liver in cats with chronic cholangitis.  We suspect that bacteria from the intestine invade the ducts to cause this inflammation.  Because of the direct relationship of the duct system of the pancreas and liver, we believe similar bacteria may also invade the pancreatic ducts causing chronic pancreatitis.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the association of bacteria and chronic pancreatitis.  Archived histological samples from normal cats and cats with pancreatitis were examined for the presence of enteric bacteria using special staining techniques. The results of this study will determine the relationship of bacteria to pancreatitis, and may provide new avenues for therapy of this disease.


The project was funded in March 2008. With a one-year project timeline, and another three months for drawing conclusions, the final report was provided to TIFF in June/July 2009.


Click here for the project’s results!

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