With the exception of virus strains Ashington and RCV, other recognised strains of Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) share relatively close genetic homology. Using serology and phylogenetic analysis, we have identified a third disparate virus lineage in healthy rabbits on Lambay Island off the east coast of Eire, where disease due to RHDV has never been observed. ELISA tests revealed high titre RHDV-specific antibodies in 81% of the sera from 11 healthy rabbits captured on this island, indicating that the virus is actively circulating amongst these rabbits. Nevertheless, infectious virus has not been isolated from rabbits living on this island. The detection of antibodies and the disparate Lambay virus lineage in an apparently healthy and isolated wild rabbit population provides the most convincing evidence yet that at least some strains of RHDV can circulate harmlessly for long periods of time in wild rabbits possibly by producing persistent or latent infections.
- Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus
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