Early circulation of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus type 2 in domestic and wild lagomorphs in southern California, USA (2020–2021)

Javier Asin, Daniel Rejmanek, Deana L. Clifford, Andrea B. Mikolon, Eileen E. Henderson, Akinyi C. Nyaoke, Melissa Macías-Rioseco, Nicolas Streitenberger, Juliann Beingesser, Leslie W. Woods, Antonio Lavazza, Lorenzo Capucci, Beate Crossley, Francisco A. Uzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) causes a severe systemic disease with hepatic necrosis. Differently from classic RHDV, which affects only European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), RHDV2 can affect many leporid species, including hares (Lepus spp.) and cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.). RHDV2 emerged in Europe in 2010 and spread worldwide. During the last 5 years, there have been multiple outbreaks in North America since the first known event in 2016 in Quebec, Canada, including several detections in British Columbia, Canada, between 2018 and 2019, Washington State and Ohio, USA, in 2018 and 2019, and New York, USA, in 2020. However, the most widespread outbreak commenced in March 2020 in the southwestern USA and Mexico. In California, RHDV2 spread widely across several southern counties between 2020 and 2021, and the aim of this study was to report and characterize these early events of viral incursion and circulation within the state. Domestic and wild lagomorphs (n = 81) collected between August 2020 and February 2021 in California with a suspicion of RHDV2 infection were tested by reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR on the liver, and histology and immunohistochemistry for pan-lagovirus were performed on liver sections. In addition, whole genome sequencing from 12 cases was performed. During this period, 33/81 lagomorphs including 24/59 domestic rabbits (O. cuniculus), 3/16 desert cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus audubonii), and 6/6 black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) tested positive. All RHDV2-positive animals had hepatic necrosis typical of pathogenic lagovirus infection, and the antigen was detected in sections from individuals of the three species. The 12 California sequences were closely related (98.9%–99.95%) to each other, and also very similar (99.0%–99.4%) to sequences obtained in other southwestern states during the 2020–2021 outbreak; however, they were less similar to strains obtained in New York in 2020 (96.7%–96.9%) and Quebec in 2016 (92.4%–92.6%), suggesting that those events could be related to different viral incursions. The California sequences were more similar (98.6%–98.7%) to a strain collected in British Columbia in 2018, which suggests that that event could have been related to the 2020 outbreak in the southwestern USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • California
  • lagomorphs
  • rabbit
  • RHD
  • RHDV2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)


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