The European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a key prey species on the Iberian Peninsula, and several predator species that are at risk of extinction are dependent on them as prey. A new rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) virus genotype (GI.2/RHDV2/b) emerged in 2010 and posed a threat to wild rabbit populations. During a survey aimed at investigating RHD epidemiology in wild rabbits, GI.2/RHDV2/b was detected by duplex real-time PCR in carcasses of one Mediterranean pine vole (Microtus duodecimcostatus) and two white-toothed shrews (Crocidura russula). Laboratory New Zealand white rabbits that were challenged with inocula obtained from the liver of the small mammals died showing RHD lesions, confirming the infectiousness of the isolates. Phylogenetic analysis of the VP60 gene nucleotide sequences showed complete homology between the isolates from the two small mammal species and a high degree of similarity, but not complete homology, to GI.2/RHDV2/b sequences from wild rabbits. The GI.2/RHDV2/b genotype has not been reported in species outside the order Lagomorpha.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2