Date of this Version
Arch Virol (2017) 162:3381–3388 DOI 10.1007/s00705-017-3493-z.
Influenza A viruses (IAVs) have been reported in wild lagomorphs in environments where they share resources with waterfowl. Recent studies have conclusively shown that a North American lagomorph, cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.), become infected following exposure to IAVs and can shed significant quantities of virus. However, the minimum infectious dose and the efficiency of various routes of infection have not been evaluated. Thirty-six cottontail rabbits were used in a dose response study assessing both the oral and nasal routes of infection. The nasal route of infection proved to be the most efficient, as all cottontail rabbits shed viral RNA following inoculation with doses as low as 102 EID50. The oral route of infection was less efficient, but still produced infection rates of ≥ 50% at relatively low doses (i.e., 103 and 104 EID50). These results suggest that cottontail rabbits are highly susceptible to IAVs at low exposure doses that have been routinely observed in environments contaminated by waterfowl. Furthermore, this study supports earlier observations that cottontail rabbits may pose a biosecurity risk to poultry operations, as a virus-contaminated water source or contaminated environment, even at low viral titers, could be sufficient to initiate viral replication in cottontail rabbits.