This result has had very significant consequences for veterinary and human medicine. A rapid growth of research on FeLV in the Glasgow laboratory and around the world showed that FeLV was common, affecting up to 40% of cats in some households, and was a major cause of death in cats, causing not only leukaemia and lymphoma but several other diseases involving the blood-forming cells. Diagnostic tests and vaccines were developed that have dramatically reduced the prevalence of the infection, today it is quite rare in pet cats, a major advance in feline welfare.
Also, the clear demonstration that a virus caused leukaemia and lymphoma in a mammal influenced the huge expansion funding for research, particularly in the USA, to find infectious causes of human cancer, which led directly to the discovery of human T-cell leukaemia virus and subsequently human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
In Jarrett’s original FeLV laboratory, an emphasis on understanding how this virus caused its various diseases led to an expansion of activity into related fields of animal and human virology. Today this network of laboratories is a key component of the Institute of Comparative Medicine at Glasgow University Veterinary School. Current studies include how viral and cellular genes combine to induce cancer, how common viruses are involved in human leukaemia, how viruses interact with cell receptors, how endogenous viruses affect animal development, and how novel vaccines and therapeutics can be developed.
The reputation of the University in these areas has over many years attracted major funding and outstanding personnel that have made it today a major international centre of research in comparative virology and molecular oncology.