An outbreak of the atypical form of myxomatosis struck a rabbit farm in Hungary. The animals had previously been vaccinated with a vaccine containing Shope rabbit fibroma virus strain. The disease appeared in winter when the presence of mosquitoes and fleas is not common. The virus was isolated from an eyelid specimen of a naturally infected rabbit. The surviving animals were observed for four weeks, blood samples were collected and, after euthanasia, organ specimens were also examined by morphological methods including pathology and electron microscopy. Serum samples were examined by virus neutralisation for antibodies. Genetic analysis of the isolated virus was carried out by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and direct sequencing. The primers were designed on the basis of the major envelope gene (Env) of the Lausanne reference strain in the GenBank. The viral proteins were examined by SDS-PAGE. The isolated virus (ref. no.: BP04/2001) was able to infect the susceptible animals directly, by contact. The disease was characterised by respiratory symptoms of the upper tracheal tract, conjunctivitis and high mortality by the 11th-14th day. Aerogenic infection with strain BP04/2001 resulted in 100% morbidity among the susceptible animals. Sequencing of the amplified 400-bp-long DNA revealed 97% homology with the Env gene of the Lausanne strain, which proves that strain BP04/2001 is a variant of the Lausanne strain having been enzootic throughout Europe. The live vaccine strain used in Hungary against myxomatosis, which is also a Lausanne-derived strain, protected the animals. According to the protein analysis a protein of 200 kDa in size is not expressed in strain BP04/2001. This is the first report on atypical myxomatosis in Central Europe. The virus spreads by airborne transmission and may cause severe losses in the rabbit population.
- Myxoma virus
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