Serum and liver samples collected monthly, during 2005, from healthy wild rabbits at a site in Pitroddie, Scotland, were analysed by ELISA and RT-PCR sequencing. Sera collected in January and February had high antibody titres against RHDV. However, during the rabbit breeding season average antibody titres were lower but increased again as the year progressed. Between March and August, RHDV-specific RNA was detected in healthy rabbits spanning a wide range of age and antibody titres. Importantly, two virus lineages were identified; a novel widely divergent strain, recovered between March and August, and a strain related to UK epidemic strains, was recovered between May and July from juvenile rabbits. We propose that a non-virulent widely divergent strain of RHDV circulated asymptomatically amongst the wild rabbits potentially inducing immunity against the introduced epidemic strain that predominantly causes high fatality rates in young immunologically naïve rabbits.
- Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus
ASJC Scopus subject areas