Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus detected in Pico, Azores, Portugal, revealed a unique endemic strain with more than 17 years of independent evolution.
ABSTRACT: Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is caused by a calicivirus, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), which is responsible for high mortality in domestic and wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). RHDV strains were sequenced from wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus algirus) collected in the Azorean island of Pico, Portugal. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the Pico RHDV strains diverge from all of the others described so far, but cluster with the genogroups 1-5 (G1-G5). The genetic distance between the Pico RHDV sequences and each G1, G2 and G3-G5 genogroup (~0.08) is compatible with an RHDV introduction at least 17 years ago. Our results show that in Pico, RHDV is the outcome of an independent evolution from the original RHDV strain that appeared in its European rabbit population. These are the first sequences of RHDV obtained in the subspecies O. c. algirus, outside of its original region, the Iberian Peninsula. Furthermore, we discuss the risk of rabbit translocations from the Azores to the Iberian Peninsula, where the rabbit wild populations are suffering high mortalities.
Project description:Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is a highly lethal Lagovirus, family Caliciviridae, that threatens European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Although a related virus severely affects hares, cross-species infection was only recently described for new variant RHDV in Cape hares (Lepus capensis mediterraneus). We sequenced two strains from dead Iberian hares (Lepus granatensis) collected in the 1990s in Portugal. Clinical signs were compatible with a Lagovirus infection. Phylogenetic analysis of the complete capsid gene positioned them in the RHDV genogroup that circulated on the Iberian Peninsula at that time. This is the earliest evidence of RHDV affecting a species other than European rabbits.
Project description:The Iberian Peninsula is the only region in the world where the two existing subspecies of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) naturally occur and hybridize. In this study we explore the relative roles of historical and contemporary processes in shaping the spatial genetic structure of the rabbit across its native distribution range, and how they differently affect each subspecies and the hybrid zone. For that purpose we obtained multilocus genotypes and mitochondrial DNA data from 771 rabbits across most of the distribution range of the European rabbit in Spain. Based on the nuclear markers we observed a hierarchical genetic structure firstly comprised by two genetic groups, largely congruent with the mitochondrial lineages and subspecies distributions (O. c. algirus and O. c. cuniculus), which were subsequently subdivided into seven genetic groups. Geographic distance alone emerged as an important factor explaining genetic differentiation across the whole range, without the need to invoke for the effect for geographical barriers. Additionally, the significantly positive spatial correlation up to a distance of only 100 km supported the idea that differentiation at a local level is of greater importance when considering the species overall genetic structure. When looking at the subspecies, northern populations of O. c. cuniculus showed more spatial genetic structure and differentiation than O. c. algirus. This could be due to local geographic barriers, limited resources, soil type and/or social behavior limiting dispersal. The hybrid zone showed similar genetic structure to the southern populations but a larger introgression from the northern lineage genome. These differences have been attributed to selection against the hybrids rather than to behavioral differences between subspecies. Ultimately, the genetic structure of the rabbit in its native distribution range is the result of an ensemble of factors, from geographical and ecological, to behavioral and molecular, that hierarchically interact through time and space.
Project description:The Lagovirus rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), a member of the family Caliciviridae, severely affects European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) populations by causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD). RHDV is subdivided in six genogroups but, more recently, a new RHDV variant with a unique genetic and antigenic profile emerged. We performed a study in rabbits found dead in the field during 2013 and 2014 in Portugal to determine the prevalence of this new variant versus the classical RHDV. Fifty-seven liver samples were screened for the presence of RHDV and positive samples were genotyped. All cases of RHDV infection were caused by the new variant. The only former genogroup circulating in Portugal, G1, was not detected. We hence conclude that the new RHDV variant is replacing G1 in Portugal, probably due to a selective advantage. This sudden and rapid replacement emphasizes the necessity of continued monitoring of wild rabbit populations.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is a highly virulent calicivirus, first described in domestic rabbits in China in 1984. RHDV appears to be a mutant form of a benign virus that existed in Europe long before the first outbreak. In the Iberian Peninsula, the first epidemic in 1988 severely reduced the populations of autochthonous European wild rabbit. To examine the evolutionary history of RHDV in the Iberian Peninsula, we collected virus samples from wild rabbits and sequenced a fragment of the capsid protein gene VP60. These data together with available sequences from other Western European countries, were analyzed following Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo methods to infer their phylogenetic relationships, evolutionary rates and demographic history. RESULTS: Evolutionary relationships of RHDV revealed three main lineages with significant phylogeographic structure. All lineages seem to have emerged at a common period of time, between ~1875 and ~1976. The Iberian Peninsula showed evidences of genetic isolation, probably due to geographic barriers to gene flow, and was also the region with the youngest MRCA.Overall, demographic analyses showed an initial increase and stabilization of the relative genetic diversity of RHDV, and a subsequent reduction in genetic diversity after the first epidemic breakout in 1984, which is compatible with a decline in effective population size. CONCLUSIONS: Results were consistent with the hypothesis that the current Iberian RHDV arose from a single infection between 1869 and 1955 (95% HPD), and rendered a temporal pattern of appearance and extinction of lineages. We propose that the rising positive selection pressure observed throughout the history of RHDV is likely mediated by the host immune system as a consequence of the genetic changes that rendered the virus virulent. Consequently, this relationship is suggested to condition RHDV demographic history.
Project description:The calicivirus Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is widely used in Australia as a biocontrol agent to manage wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) populations. However, widespread herd immunity limits the effectiveness of the currently used strain, CAPM V-351. To overcome this, we developed an experimental platform for the selection and characterisation of novel RHDV strains. As RHDV does not replicate in cell culture, variant viruses were selected by serially passaging a highly virulent RHDV field isolate in immunologically naïve laboratory rabbits that were passively immunised 18-24 hours post-challenge with a neutralising monoclonal antibody. After seven passages, two amino acid substitutions in the P2 domain of the capsid protein became fixed within the virus population. Furthermore, a synonymous substitution within the coding sequence of the viral polymerase appeared and was also maintained in all subsequent passages. These findings demonstrate proof-of-concept that RHDV evolution can be experimentally manipulated to select for virus variants with altered phenotypes, in this case partial immune escape.
Project description:In Australia, the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) has been used since 1996 to reduce numbers of introduced European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) which have a devastating impact on the native Australian environment. RHDV causes regular, short disease outbreaks, but little is known about how the virus persists and survives between epidemics. We examined the initial spread of RHDV to show that even upon its initial spread, the virus circulated continuously on a regional scale rather than persisting at a local population level and that Australian rabbit populations are highly interconnected by virus-carrying flying vectors. Sequencing data obtained from a single rabbit population showed that the viruses that caused an epidemic each year seldom bore close genetic resemblance to those present in previous years. Together, these data suggest that RHDV survives in the Australian environment through its ability to spread amongst rabbit subpopulations. This is consistent with modelling results that indicated that in a large interconnected rabbit meta-population, RHDV should maintain high virulence, cause short, strong disease outbreaks but show low persistence in any given subpopulation. This new epidemiological framework is important for understanding virus-host co-evolution and future disease management options of pest species to secure Australia's remaining natural biodiversity.
Project description:The complete genomic sequences of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) strains isolated in 1995 (CB137) and 2006 (CB194) from wild European rabbits from Portugal are described. The strains were isolated in the original range of the European rabbit and assigned to genogroup 1 (G1), which is known to have persisted only in the Iberian Peninsula. ORF2 of isolate CB137 might encode a shorter minor structural protein, VP10.
Project description:Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is a lagovirus that causes rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) in European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). In 2010, a new genotype called RHDV2 emerged in France. It exhibits a larger host range than classical RHDV strains by sporadically infecting different hare species, including the European hare (Lepus europaeus). Phylogenetic analyses revealed that closely related RHDV2 strains circulate locally in both hares and rabbits, and therefore that RHDV2 strains infecting hares do not belong to a lineage that has evolved only in this species. We showed that RHDV2 is widely distributed in France and that it was responsible for more than a third of cases of lagovirus disease in European hare populations in 2015. The oldest RHDV2 positive hare was sampled in November 2013 and we reported two hares co-infected by EBHSV and RHDV2. All together, our results raise important epidemiological and evolutionary issues. In particular, along with the potential emergence of recombinant EBHSV/RHDV2 strains in hares, the enlargement of the host range changes the host population structure of RHDV2 and may alter the impact of the virus on rabbit and hare populations.
Project description:Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is a calicivirus that causes acute infections in both domestic and wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The virus causes significant economic losses in rabbit farming and reduces wild rabbit populations. The recent emergence of RHDV variants capable of overcoming immunity to other strains emphasises the need to develop universally effective antivirals to enable quick responses during outbreaks until new vaccines become available. The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) is a primary target for the development of such antiviral drugs. In this study, we used cell-free in vitro assays to examine the biochemical characteristics of two rabbit calicivirus RdRps and the effects of several antivirals that were previously identified as human norovirus RdRp inhibitors. The non-nucleoside inhibitor NIC02 was identified as a potential scaffold for further drug development against rabbit caliciviruses. Our experiments revealed an unusually high temperature optimum (between 40 and 45 °C) for RdRps derived from both a pathogenic and a non-pathogenic rabbit calicivirus, possibly demonstrating an adaptation to a host with a physiological body temperature of more than 38 °C. Interestingly, the in vitro polymerase activity of the non-pathogenic calicivirus RdRp was at least two times higher than that of the RdRp of the highly virulent RHDV.
Project description:Hybrid zones provide an excellent opportunity for studying the consequences of genetic changes between closely related taxa. Here we investigate patterns of genetic variability and gene flow at four X-linked loci within and between the two subspecies of European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus cuniculus and O. c. algirus). Two of these genes are located near the centromere and two are located near the telomeres. We observed a deep split in the genealogy of each gene with the root located along the deepest branch in each case, consistent with the evolution of these subspecies in allopatry. The two centromeric loci showed low levels of variability, high levels of linkage disequilibrium, and little introgression between subspecies. In contrast, the two telomeric loci showed high levels of variability, low levels of linkage disequilibrium, and considerable introgression between subspecies. These data are consistent with suppression of recombination near the centromere of the rabbit X chromosome. These observations support a view of speciation where genomic incompatibilities at different loci in the genome create localized differences in levels of gene flow between nascent species.