ABSTRACT

Myxoma virus (MYXV) causes morbidity and mortality in European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) worldwide, and recently in Iberian hares (Lepus granatensis) in Spain. We aimed to assess the presence of MYXV-specific DNA in ixodid ticks collected from both hosts. A total of 417 ticks harvested from 30 wild lagomorphs, including wild rabbits and Iberian hares were collected from southern Spain. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and PCR-sequencing were used to detect virus exposure and presence, respectively. Antibodies to MYXV were detected in 68% (17/25) of wild rabbits and in 67% (2/3) of Iberian hares. We detected MYXV DNA in 50.7% of pools of two different tick species (nymphs and adults of Rhipicephalus pusillus, and nymphs of Hyalomma lusitanicum) parasitizing rabbits and hares. The obtained partial sequence of the viral major envelope protein gene showed a mutation (G383A) within the MYXV_gp026 locus between the rabbit strain and Iberian hare strain (recently isolated in tissues of infected hares from Spain). However, in our study, the viral DNA presence was detected for the first time using tick DNA as the PCR-template, but the possible role of ticks as vectors of MYXV still needs to be elucidated.

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