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Serological assays to discriminate rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus from Australian non-pathogenic rabbit calicivirus *

Posted by on in 2012
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 Liu, J.a,b, Kerr P.J.a, Wright, J.D.a,b, and T. Strivea,b

a Ecosystem Sciences Division, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra, Australia

b Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia


Serological cross reactivity between the virulent rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) and the closely related but non-pathogenic rabbit calicivirus (RCV) makes it difficult to study the epidemiology of each virus and the interaction between them when both viruses co-circulate in wild rabbit populations. ELISA methods for the diagnosis of RHDV infection are well characterized, but no specific serological tests for RCV have been developed. Following the characterization of Australian non-pathogenic RCV-A1 strains, we used virus-like-particles (VLPs) and anti-RCV-A1 specific antibodies to establish a set of isotype ELISAs for detection of IgG, IgA and IgM in rabbit sera and secretory mucosal IgA in rectal swabs, and two competition ELISAs. These assays were used to discriminate between anti-RCV-A1 and anti-RHDV antibodies in rabbits. The isotype ELISAs were highly sensitive for detection of anti-RCV-A1 antibodies, but varying levels of cross reactivity from anti-RHDV antibodies occurred in the isotype ELISAs and one competition ELISA. However, the second competition ELISA specifically detected antibodies to RCV-A1 and showed no cross reactivity to anti-RHDV sera. These ELISAs provide important tools to monitor RCV-A1 infection when it occurs alone, and to discriminate between RHDV and RCV-A1 infection when they occur in the same rabbit population. When used in parallel with RHDV serology, they could be used to monitor the dynamics of these two closely related but pathogenically distinct viruses in wild and domestic rabbit populations.

*Note: The chicken IgY used in this publication was purified using the Eggspress IgY purification kit manufactured by Gallus Immunotech Inc.

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