Epidemiology and Infection

Survival of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) in the environment

J. HENNING a1c1, J. MEERS a2, P. R. DAVIES a1 and R. S. MORRIS a1
a1 EpiCentre, Massey University, Palmerston North, PO Box 11-222, New Zealand
a2 University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

Article author query
henning j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
meers j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
davies pr   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
morris rs   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


A study was conducted to investigate the persistence of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) in the environment. Virus was impregnated onto two carrier materials (cotton tape and bovine liver) and exposed to environmental conditions on pasture during autumn in New Zealand. Samples were collected after 1, 10, 44 and 91 days and the viability of the virus was determined by oral inoculation of susceptible 11- to 14-week-old New Zealand White rabbits. Evidence of RHDV infection was based on clinical and pathological signs and/or seroconversion to RHDV. Virus impregnated on cotton tape was viable at 10 days of exposure but not at 44 days, while in bovine liver it was still viable at 91 days. The results of this study suggest that RHDV in animal tissues such as rabbit carcasses can survive for at least 3 months in the field, while virus exposed directly to environmental conditions, such as dried excreted virus, is viable for a period of less than 1 month. Survival of RHDV in the tissues of dead animals could, therefore, provide a persistent reservoir of virus, which could initiate new outbreaks of disease after extended delays.

(Accepted March 23 2004)

c1 School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia. (Email: j.henning@uq.edu.au)