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Evidence for insect transmission of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus

  • K. A. McCOLL (a1), J. C. MERCHANT (a2), J. HARDY (a2), B. D. COOKE (a2), A. ROBINSON (a2) and H. A. WESTBURY (a1)...

Abstract

The spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) virus from quarantine on Wardang Island to mainland Australia in 1995 suggested that insects could be potential vectors. Field observations and laboratory experiments were conducted to address aspects of this hypothesis. Firstly, the variation in insect populations on the island during the field trials was examined. There was approximately a 1000-fold increase in the number of bushflies, Musca vetustissima, shortly before the spread of the virus. Secondly, M. vetustissima were tested in the laboratory as potential vectors of RHD virus, and it was demonstrated that disease could be transmitted between rabbits by flies. Finally, 13 of 16 insect samples, collected from Wardang Island and from several sites on the mainland following the spread of virus off the island, were positive for the presence of RHD virus by a specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Only one sample contained sufficient infectious virus to kill a susceptible rabbit. These data, combined with previously published information on fly biology, suggested that flies, particularly bushflies, may be involved in the transmission of RHD virus. Other possible routes of spread were not assessed in this study.

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Evidence for insect transmission of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus

  • K. A. McCOLL (a1), J. C. MERCHANT (a2), J. HARDY (a2), B. D. COOKE (a2), A. ROBINSON (a2) and H. A. WESTBURY (a1)...

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