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Co-evolution of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and RHDV: resistance and virulence

Elsworth, P. and Cooke, B. (2008) Co-evolution of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and RHDV: resistance and virulence. In: Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference, 10-13 June 2008, Canberra, ACT.

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Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) was introduced to Australia in 1995 for the control of wild rabbits. Initial outbreaks greatly reduced rabbit numbers and the virus has continued to control rabbits to varying degrees in different parts of Australia. However, recent field evidence suggests that the virus may be becoming less effective in those areas that have previously experienced repeated epizootics causing high mortality. There are also reports of rabbits returning to pre-1995 density levels, Virus and host can be expected to co-evolve. The host will develop resistance to the virus with the virus subsequently changing to overcome that resistance. It has been 12 years since the release of RHDV and it is an opportune time to examine where the dynamic currently stands between RHDV and rabbits. Laboratory challenge tests have indicated that resistance to RHDV has developed to different degrees in populations throughout Australia. In one population a low dose (1:25 dilution) of Czech strain RHDV failed to infect a single susceptible rabbit, yet infected a low to high (up to 73%) percentage across other populations tested. Different selection pressures are present in these populations and will be driving the level of resistance being seen. The mechanisms and genetics behind the development of resistance are also important as the on-going use of RHDV as a control tool in the management of rabbits relies on our understanding of factors influencing the efficacy of the virus. Understanding how resistance has developed may provide clues on how best to use the virus to circumvent these mechanisms. Similarly, it will help in managing populations that have yet to develop high levels of resistance.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Additional Information:© Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
Keywords:Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV); genetic resistance; wild rabbit.
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Animal control and ecology
Veterinary medicine > Diseases of special classes of animals
Live Archive:21 Aug 2009 02:27
Last Modified:07 Apr 2022 01:50

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