Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide







  • Last modified
  • 14 July 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • myxomatosis
  • Overview
  • Myxomatosis is an infectious, virulent viral disease affecting the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) caused by Myxoma virus (MYXV). It was described for the first time in 1896 in Uruguay by Giuseppe Sanar...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • myxomatosis


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Myxomatosis is an infectious, virulent viral disease affecting the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) caused by Myxoma virus (MYXV). It was described for the first time in 1896 in Uruguay by Giuseppe Sanarelli, following the emergence of a deadly new disease affecting laboratory rabbits (Fenner and Ratcliffe, 1965). In its natural rabbit hosts, Sylvilagus brasiliensis in South America (South American strains) and S. bachmani (Californian strains) in California, USA, MYXV causes only mild disease. However, in European rabbits it causes serious disease that can result in 100% mortality (Fenner, 1994). MYXV was deliberately introduced to control rabbit populations in Australia in 1950, then in France (illegally) in 1952, from where it spread across the whole of Europe, including Great Britain. MYXV now has a worldwide distribution, is endemic in wild European rabbit populations, and can spill over into farmed, laboratory, and pet rabbits (Fenner and Fantini, 1999). On rabbit farms, the development of vaccines has generally brought the disease under control, although vaccine failures sometimes occur (Dalton et al., 2015). However, myxomatosis remains one of the leading causes of death in wild rabbits, with declining populations recorded in Europe over the past 30 years (Bertagnoi and Marchandeau, 2015).

Myxomatosis is on the list of diseases notifiable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The distribution section contains data from OIE's WAHID database on disease occurrence. For more information, see the website:

Hosts/Species Affected

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Myxoma virus infects only lagomorphs. The natural hosts are Sylvilagus brasiliensis in South America (South American strains) and S. bachmani (Californian strains) in California, USA (Fenner, 1994) in which the viral strains produce only a benign fibroma. Following deliberate introductions into Australia and Europe as a biological control for wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), MYXV now has a worldwide distribution, is endemic in wild European rabbit populations, and can spill over into farmed, laboratory and pet rabbits (Fenner and Fantini, 1999). European hares (Lepus europaeus) rarely develop generalised disease (Fenner and Ratcliffe, 1965). Wild rabbits act as reservoirs. The chief mode of transmission is biting arthropods, which are passive vectors, and the primary route of inoculation is intradermal (Fenner and Ratcliffe, 1965). Culicidae, Siphonaptera and Simuliidae are the main vectors, with lice, ticks and mites playing only a minor role.


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Myxoma virus has a worldwide distribution and is endemic in wild European rabbit populations.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanNo information availableOIE, 2009
ArmeniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
AzerbaijanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
BahrainDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BangladeshDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BhutanDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Brunei DarussalamDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
CambodiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ChinaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
-Hong KongNo information availableOIE, 2009
Georgia (Republic of)Last reported1986OIE Handistatus, 2005
IndiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
IndonesiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
IranDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
IraqNo information availableOIE, 2009
IsraelDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
JapanDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
JordanNo information availableOIE, 2009
KazakhstanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Korea, DPRDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Korea, Republic ofNo information availableOIE, 2009
KuwaitDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
KyrgyzstanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LaosDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
LebanonDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
MalaysiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
-Peninsular MalaysiaDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
-SabahDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
-SarawakDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
MongoliaNo information availableOIE, 2009
MyanmarNo information availableOIE, 2009
NepalNo information availableOIE, 2009
OmanDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
PakistanNo information availableOIE, 2009
PhilippinesNo information availableOIE, 2009
QatarNo information availableOIE, 2009
Saudi ArabiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
SingaporeDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Sri LankaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SyriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
TaiwanDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
TajikistanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
ThailandNo information availableOIE, 2009
TurkeyNo information availableOIE, 2009
TurkmenistanDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
United Arab EmiratesNo information availableOIE, 2009
UzbekistanDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
VietnamNo information availableOIE, 2009
YemenNo information availableOIE, 2009


AlgeriaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
AngolaNo information availableOIE, 2009
BeninNo information availableOIE, 2009
BotswanaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Burkina FasoNo information availableOIE, 2009
BurundiNo information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005
CameroonOIE Handistatus, 2005
Cape VerdeDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Central African RepublicDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
ChadNo information availableOIE, 2009
CongoNo information availableOIE, 2009
Congo Democratic RepublicNo information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005
Côte d'IvoireDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
DjiboutiDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
EgyptDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
EritreaNo information availableOIE, 2009
EthiopiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GabonNo information availableOIE, 2009
GambiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GhanaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GuineaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Guinea-BissauNo information availableOIE, 2009
KenyaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LesothoDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
LibyaDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
MadagascarDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MalawiNo information availableOIE, 2009
MaliNo information availableOIE, 2009
MauritiusDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
MoroccoNo information availableOIE, 2009
MozambiqueNo information availableOIE, 2009
NamibiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
NigeriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
RéunionDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
RwandaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Sao Tome and PrincipeNo information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005
SenegalNo information availableOIE, 2009
SeychellesNo information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005
SomaliaNo information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005
South AfricaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SudanDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SwazilandNo information availableOIE, 2009
TanzaniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
TogoNo information availableOIE, 2009
TunisiaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
UgandaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ZambiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ZimbabweDisease never reportedOIE, 2009

North America

BermudaDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
CanadaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
GreenlandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MexicoDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
USAAbsent, reported but not confirmedOIE, 2009

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
BelizeDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
British Virgin IslandsDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Cayman IslandsDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Costa RicaPresentOIE, 2009
CubaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
CuraçaoDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
DominicaDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Dominican RepublicDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
El SalvadorDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
GuadeloupeNo information availableOIE, 2009
GuatemalaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
HaitiDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
HondurasNo information availableOIE, 2009
JamaicaNo information availableOIE, 2009
MartiniqueNo information availableOIE, 2009
NicaraguaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
PanamaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Saint Kitts and NevisDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Trinidad and TobagoDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005

South America

ArgentinaRestricted distributionOIE, 2009
BoliviaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BrazilDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
ChileRestricted distributionOIE, 2009
ColombiaPresentOIE, 2009
EcuadorDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Falkland IslandsDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
French GuianaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
GuyanaDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
ParaguayReported present or known to be presentOIE Handistatus, 2005
PeruDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
UruguayDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
VenezuelaNo information availableOIE, 2009


AlbaniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
AndorraDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
AustriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
BelarusDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
BelgiumDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Bosnia-HercegovinaDisease not reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
BulgariaPresentDinev, 2012
CroatiaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
CyprusDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Czech RepublicPresentOIE, 2009
DenmarkDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
EstoniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
FinlandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
FranceNo information availableOIE, 2009
GermanyDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
GreecePresentKritas et al., 2008
HungaryDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
IcelandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
IrelandNo information availableOIE, 2009
Isle of Man (UK)Reported present or known to be presentOIE Handistatus, 2005
ItalyPresentOIE, 2009
JerseyReported present or known to be presentOIE Handistatus, 2005
LatviaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LiechtensteinDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LithuaniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LuxembourgPresentOIE, 2009
MacedoniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
MaltaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
MoldovaLast reported2003OIE Handistatus, 2005
MontenegroDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
NetherlandsDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
NorwayDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
PolandPresentOIE, 2009
PortugalPresentOIE, 2009
RomaniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Russian FederationDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
SerbiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SlovakiaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
SloveniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
SpainPresentDalton et al., 2015
SwedenPresentOIE, 2009
SwitzerlandPresentOIE, 2009
UKPresentOIE, 2009
-Northern IrelandReported present or known to be presentOIE Handistatus, 2005
UkraineDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Yugoslavia (former)No information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)No information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005


AustraliaPresentOIE, 2009
French PolynesiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
New CaledoniaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
New ZealandDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
SamoaDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
VanuatuDisease never reportedOIE Handistatus, 2005
Wallis and Futuna IslandsNo information availableOIE Handistatus, 2005

Disease Course

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In its classic form, myxomatosis is often fatal, characterised by severe immunosuppression and the appearance of skin pseudotumours (myxomas); it is conducive to effective mechanical transmission by many biting arthropods. Atypical clinical forms, referred to as amyxomatous, of variable severity and with an apparent preference for direct transmission, have emerged in Europe (reviewed by Bertagnoli and Marchndeau, 2015). The clinical signs of this atypical form are predominantly respiratory, while skin lesions are few and small (Marlier et al., 1999).

Prevention and Control

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Control methods include the application of biosecurity measures, in order to avoid the introduction of the infection by infected animals or by contacts with arthropod vectors, and the use of vaccines.

Live vaccines based either on attenuated myxoma virus strains or on a closely related poxvirus, Shope fibroma virus, have been available for some time. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Shope fibroma virus-based vaccines may be considered less immunogenic, while attenuated myxoma virus-based vaccines may be immunosuppressive, particularly in young rabbits (Fenner and Woodroofe 1954; McKercher and Saito 1964). Such immunosuppression in animals held in large rabbitries can lead to serious problems of bacterial respiratory infection. The duration of protection of live attenuated myxoma virus vaccines is usually around four to six months.

A recombinant attenuated live MYXV strain expressing rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) capsid protein and conferring double protection against myxomatosis and RHDV has been developed and it is commercially available in Europe (Spibey et al., 2012). An attenuated field strain of MYXV from Spain has been similarly engineered and tested in laboratory and field studies as a vaccine against both myxomatosis and RHDV for wild rabbits (Angulo and Bárcena, 2007).


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Angulo E; Bárcena J, 2007. Towards a unique and transmissible vaccine against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease for rabbit populations. Wildlife Research, 34(7):567-577.

Bertagnoli S; Marchandeau S, 2015. Myxomatosis. Revue Scientifique et Technique - Office International des Épizooties, 34(2):539-547 (Fr), 549-556 (En).

Dalton KP; Nicieza I; Llano Dde; Gullón J; Inza M; Petralanda M; Arroita Z; Parra F, 2015. Vaccine breaks: outbreaks of myxomatosis on Spanish commercial rabbit farms. Veterinary Microbiology, 178(3/4):208-216.

Dinev I, 2012. An outbreak of myxomatosis in rabbits in Bulgaria clinicomorphological studies. Trakia Journal of Sciences, 10(1):79-84.,%20N%201,%202012/Iv.Dinev.pdf

Fenner F, 1994. Myxoma virus. Virus infections of rodents and lagomorphs [ed. by Osterhaus, A. D. M. E.]. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers, 59-70.

Fenner F; Fantini B, 1999. Biological control of vertebrate pests: the history of myxomatosis, an experiment in evolution. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing, xii + 339 pp.

Fenner F; Ratcliffe FN, 1965. Myxomatosis. Cambridge: University Press, xiv + 379 pp.

FENNER F; WOODROOFE GM, 1954. Protection of laboratory rabbits against myxomatosis by vaccination with fibroma virus. Australian Journal of Experimental Biology and Medical Science, 32:653-668.

Kritas SK; Dovas C; Petridou E; Fortomaris P; Farsang A; Koptopoulos G, 2008. An acute outbreak of myxomatosis in two Greek rabbitries. In: Proceedings of the 9th World Rabbit Congress, Verona, Italy, 10-13 June 2008 [ed. by Xicato, G.\Trocino, A.\Lukefahr, S. D.]. Castanet-Tolosan, France: World Rabbit Science Association, 977-980.

Marlier D; Cassart D; Boucraut-Baralon C; Coignoul F; Vindevogel H, 1999. Experimental infection of specific pathogen-free New Zealand White rabbits with five strains of amyxomatous myxoma virus. Journal of Comparative Pathology, 121(4):369-384.

Mckercher DG; Saito JK, 1964. An attenuated live virus vaccine for myxomatosis. Nature, 202:933-934.

OIE Handistatus, 2002. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (dataset for 2001). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE Handistatus, 2003. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (dataset for 2002). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE Handistatus, 2004. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (data set for 2003). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE Handistatus, 2005. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (data set for 2004). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE, 2009. World Animal Health Information Database - Version: 1.4. World Animal Health Information Database. Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health.

Spibey N; McCabe VJ; Greenwood NM; Jack SC; Sutton D; Waart Lvan der, 2012. Novel bivalent vectored vaccine for control of myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease. Veterinary Record, 170(12):309.

Distribution Maps

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