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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Immunological Intervention of Malignant Catarrhal Fever Virus-Induced Disease in Ruminants

Location: Animal Diseases Research

Title: Are rabbits a suitable model to study sheep-associated malignant catarrhal in susceptible hosts?

Authors
item Cunha, Cristina
item O'Toole, Donal -
item Taus, Naomi
item Knowles, Donald
item Li, Hong

Submitted to: Veterinary Microbiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 11, 2013
Publication Date: May 3, 2013
Citation: Cunha, C.W., O'Toole, D., Taus, N.S., Knowles Jr, D.P., Li, H. 2013. Are rabbits a suitable model to study sheep-associated malignant catarrhal in susceptible hosts? Veterinary Microbiology. 163(3-4):358-363.

Interpretive Summary: Sheep-associated malignant catarrhal fever (SA-MCF) is a viral disease, caused by ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2) that affects mainly ruminants. Bison is highly susceptible to this disease, which is often fatal. Significantly economic impact of MCF in the bison farm industry drives research to seek for a vaccine to protect animals at risk. Disease mechanisms and vaccine studies rely solely on live animals because OvHV-2 has not been successfully propagated in vitro. Thus, the identification of a laboratory animal model is desirable and necessary to accelerate scientific discoveries and progress. Rabbits can be experimentally infected with OvHV-2 but the viral and host responses during SA-MCF development in rabbits have not been completely evaluated yet. In this study, rabbits were experimentally infected with OvHV-2 and viral and rabbit parameters associated to SA-MCF development were monitored and compared with those reported in bison. The results demonstrated that the infection and the development of disease in rabbits occur in a fashion similar to that in bison. The results of this study in conjunction with previous reports demonstrate that rabbits are a valuable model for SA-MCF studies and vaccine development.

Technical Abstract: Sheep-associated malignant catarrhal fever (SA-MCF), caused by ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2), is often a fatal syndrome affecting mainly ruminants. SA-MCF pathogenesis and vaccine studies rely solely on live animals, since OvHV-2 has not been successfully propagated in vitro. Thus, the identification of a laboratory animal model is desirable and necessary to accelerate the identification of virus-host interactions that lead to disease. Rabbits are susceptible to infection with OvHV-2 and the disease can be reliably induced experimentally; however, the viral dynamics and host immune responses in the context of SA-MCF development in rabbits have not yet been evaluated. We addressed these knowledge gaps by experimentally infecting rabbits with OvHV-2 and monitoring viral load and dissemination, expression of viral genes and host immune response-associated genes, and development of lesions in comparison to bison, a natural host specie that is highly susceptible to SA-MCF. Our results demonstrated that the infection dynamics and the development of disease in rabbits occur in a fashion similar to that in bison. The results of this study in conjunction with previous reports demonstrate that rabbits are a valuable model for SA-MCF pathogenesis and vaccine studies.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014