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ENCEPHALITOZOONOSIS, the disease caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi, can be a significant cause of morbidity in affected domestic rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus. However, the possibility of disease in wild rabbits has not been extensively studied. The importance of whether or not it is present in wild rabbits relates not only to the potential for transmission to domestic rabbits, but also the human health potential of zoonotic encephalitozoonosis. The aim of this study was to determine if E. cuniculi antibodies could be detected in wild rabbits.
In the most recent investigation into E. cuniculi in wild rabbits in the UK all 27 rabbits tested negative (Blevins 2007). The last such study before this was in 1980 when again all rabbits were seronegative, this time with a sample size of 175 (Cox and Ross 1980). Conversely, in 1997 in Australia 20 out of 81 (25 per cent) were found to be seropositive (Thomas and others 1997). Looking beyond the prevalence in the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, but still within the Lagomorpha, Zanet and others tested the Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus; they detected E. cuniculi DNA in 14 out of 144 (10 per cent) of the cottontails in Italy (Zanet and others 2013). The seroprevalence of rodents in the UK has also been investigated: a study …