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  • Author or Editor: Hilary S. Stern x
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To determine epidemiologic features of naturally occurring myxomatosis in domestic rabbits in California and to characterize clinicopathologic and diagnostic findings.

ANIMALS

11 client-owned rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus subsp domesticus.

CLINICAL PRESENTATION

A prospective study of pet rabbits with myxomatosis seen at an exotic animal specialty clinic in Santa Cruz county, California, was conducted between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023. Rabbits were included in the study if they had bilateral blepharedema and were PCR positive for myxoma virus.

RESULTS

All infected rabbits had spent time outdoors. Common clinical signs included bilateral blepharedema (11/11), anogenital edema (10/11), rectal temperature ≥ 39.7 °C (5/9), and sudden death (4/11). Eyelid biopsies from all rabbits (11/11) were positive for myxoma virus by qualitative PCR followed by Sanger sequencing (100% nucleotide identity to strain MSW, also known as California/San Francisco 1950 [Genbank accession KF148065]). Most rabbits had keratinocytes containing eosinophilic intracytoplasmic viral inclusions in biopsies of edematous skin (8/11) and lymphocyte necrosis in the spleen (10/11). Immunohistochemistry identified myxoma virus in samples of skin, heart, lung, ileum, spleen, and lymph node.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Clinical signs of myxomatosis caused by the MSW strain of myxoma virus are distinctive but subtle. Cases occur regularly in the Santa Cruz and San Jose regions of California. As infection with this virus is almost 100% fatal and no vaccine is available in the US, owners of domestic rabbits in endemic areas should keep their pets indoors or behind mosquito screens. Myxomatosis is a reportable disease in the US, and the appropriate state or federal agencies should be contacted when outbreaks occur.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association