Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

First detection of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV2) in Singapore.

Abstract

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) is a significant viral disease caused by infection with Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV). The first documented cases of RHDV in Singapore occurred in adult pet European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in September 2020. Rabbits presented with acute hyporexia, lethargy, huddled posture, and varying degrees of pyrexia and tachypnoea. Clinical pathology consistently reflected markedly elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALKP). Hepatic lobe torsion was ruled out using ultrasonography and colour Doppler studies in all patients. A total of 11 rabbits owned by 3 families were presented to the clinics; 8/11 rabbits died within 48 hr of presentation, while the remaining two rabbits had recovered after prolonged hospitalization and one rabbit was aclinical. Histopathology revealed acute, marked diffuse hepatocellular necrosis and degeneration, findings which were suggestive for RHDV infection and prompted the undertaking of further molecular diagnostics. Subsequent polymerase chain reaction of the liver samples detected RHDV RNA. Molecular characterization of viral genomes by whole genome sequencing revealed that the outbreak strain was of the genotype GI.2 (RHDV2/RHDVb). Nucleotide sequences of the VP60 gene were compared with various RHDV variants using phylogenetic analysis. The sample genome shared highest sequence identity with a GI.2-genotyped virus from GenBank (RHDV isolate Algarve 1 polyprotein and minor structural protein (VP10) genes, GenBank accession KF442961). The combination of clinical, histopathological, molecular and sequencing technologies enabled rapid detection and detailed genetic characterization of the RHDV virus causing the present outbreak for prompt implementation of disease control measures in Singapore. Further epidemiological investigations of potential virus introduction into Singapore are ongoing.