Signs and pathologic changes of European brown hare syndrome (EBHS) were reproduced in four hares (Lepus europaeus) after experimental inoculation of a liver suspension from hares from Belgium, which naturally died of EBHS. Virus particles were demonstrated by electron microscopy in the liver of an experimentally infected hare. They were spherical with a diameter of 28 to 30 nm. After density gradient centrifugation, virus particles were detected in the density zone of 1.34 g/ml. Based on immunoelectron microscopy with a convalescent serum, we identified the virus as the cause of EBHS. Clinical signs were not produced in three seronegative domestic rabbits after subcutaneous inoculation of the EBHS virus. Although low levels of antibodies against EBHS virus were found in the serum of these three rabbits 4 weeks after the inoculation of EBHS virus, the rabbits were not protected when challenged with viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD) virus. The different pathogenicity of the Belgian EBHS and VHD virus isolates in rabbits and the lack of protection in rabbits with circulating EBHS virus antibodies against a challenge with VHD virus indicates that both Belgian virus isolates form two different virus populations.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2