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The pathogenesis of South American and North American myxoma viruses was examined in two species of North American lagomorphs, Sylvilagus nuttallii (mountain cottontail) and Sylvilagus audubonii (desert cottontail) both of which have been shown to have the potential to transmit the South American type of myxoma virus. Following infection with the South American strain (Lausanne, Lu), S. nuttallii developed both a local lesion and secondary lesions on the skin. They did not develop the classical myxomatosis seen in European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The infection at the inoculation site did not resolve during the 20-day time course of the trial and contained transmissible virus titres at all times. In contrast, S. audubonii infected with Lu had very few signs of disseminated infection and partially controlled virus replication at the inoculation site. The prototype Californian strain of myxoma virus (MSW) was able to replicate at the inoculation site of both species but did not induce clinical signs of a disseminated infection. In S. audubonii, there was a rapid response to MSW characterized by a massive T lymphocyte infiltration of the inoculation site by day 5. MSW did not reach transmissible titres at the inoculation site in either species. This might explain why the Californian myxoma virus has not expanded its host-range in North America.