Infectivity of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus excreted in rabbit faecal pellets
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) is caused by a lagovirus affecting European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Viral RNA is detected in tissues or faeces of convalescent rabbits, suggesting persistent infections; however, this RNA has not been shown to be related to infective viruses to date. In the present work, seven laboratory rabbits were challenged with the RHDV2/b virus variant. Viral RNA was individually detected by duplex qPCR in faeces collected for four weeks after infection, and the infective capacity of viral RNA excreted in the faeces of surviving rabbits was tested by challenging new rabbits with faecal inocula. As results, viral RNA was detected in faeces until the end of the assay. Viral RNA detected in the fourth week was infective only in the case of one rabbit that did not exhibit clear seroconversion, suggesting persistent infection as a result of an impaired immune response. Since the surviving rabbits were apparently healthy individuals, the importance of detecting carriers and the correct management of faeces to control RHD outbreaks in rabbitries are highlighted.