Evolution of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) from the Iberian Peninsula

A. Muller*, J. Freitas, E. Silva, G. Le Gall-Reculé, F. Zwingelstein, J. Abrantes, P. J. Esteves, P. C. Alves, W. van der Loo, J. Kolodziejek, N. Nowotny, G. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


To date information on rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) in Spain and Portugal has been scarce, although the disease is endemic and continues to have a considerable impact on species conservation and hunting industry. We analysed RHDVs obtained between 1994 and 2007 at different geographic locations in Portugal (40 samples), Spain (3 samples) and France (4 samples) from wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) that succumbed to the disease. Phylogenetic analyses based on partial VP60 gene sequences allowed a grouping of these RHDVs into three groups, termed "Iberian" Groups IB1, IB2 and IB3. Interestingly, these three Iberian groups clustered separately, though not far from earlier RHDVs of Genogroup 1 (containing e.g., strain "AST89"), but clearly distinct from globally described RHDV strains of Genogroups 2-6. This result, supported by a bootstrap value of 76%, gives rise to the hypothesis that the virus evolved independently since its introduction to wild rabbit populations on the Iberian Peninsula, with the Pyrenees acting as a natural barrier to rabbit and hence to virus dispersal. No differences were observed in RHDV sequences obtained from geographic regions where the rabbit subspecies O. c. algirus prevails compared with those obtained from O. c. cuniculus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-373
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 30 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus
  • Phylogeny
  • RHDV
  • Wild rabbit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • General Veterinary


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