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Recombinant myxoma virus infection associated with high mortality in rabbit farming (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
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  • Fábio A. Abade dos Santos,
  • Carina Carvalho,
  • Madalena Monteiro,
  • Paulo Carvalho,
  • Paula Mendonça,
  • M. Conceição Peleteiro,
  • Margarida Duarte
Fábio A. Abade dos Santos
University of Lisbon Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
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Carina Carvalho
INIAV
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Madalena Monteiro
INIAV
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Paulo Carvalho
INIAV
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Paula Mendonça
INIAV
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M. Conceição Peleteiro
University of Lisbon Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
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Margarida Duarte
INIAV
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Abstract

Myxomatosis is an emergent disease in Iberian hare, having been considered a rabbit disease for decades. Genome sequencing of the strains obtained from affected Iberian hares showed to be distinct from the classical strains that circulated in rabbits since the virus introduction in Europe, in 1952. The main genomic difference concerns the presence of an additional 2.8Kb region disrupting the M009L gene and adding a set of genes with homology to the MYXV genes M060R, M061, M064 and M065R originated in poxviruses. After the emergence of this recombinant virus (MYXV-Tol or ha-MYXV), in the summer of 2019, the recombinant MYXV was not detected in rabbit surveys suggesting apparent species segregation with the MYXV classic strains persistently circulating in rabbits. Recently, a group of six unvaccinated European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus cuniculus) from a backyard rabbitry in the South Portugal, developed signs of myxomatosis (anorexia, dyspnoea, oedema of eyelids, head, ears, external genitals and anus, and skin myxomas in the base of the ears), five of them dying within 24-48 hours of symptoms onset. Molecular analysis revealed that only the recombinant myxoma virus was present. This is the first documented report of a recombinant myxoma virus (ha-MYXV)  in farm rabbits associated with high mortality, which aggravates the concern for the future of the Iberian hare and wild rabbits and the safety of the rabbit industry against which the existing vaccines may not be fully protective.

Peer review status:IN REVISION

31 Aug 2020Submitted to Transboundary and Emerging Diseases
01 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
01 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed
08 Sep 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
24 Sep 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
25 Sep 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor