Should the 40-year-old practice of releasing virulent myxoma virus to control rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) be continued?

Release of virulent myxoma virus has been a key component of rabbit-control operations in Queensland, Australia, since the 1960s but its use rests on anecdotal reports. During a routine operation to release virulent myxoma virus we found no evidence to support the continued regular use of the technique in south-west Queensland. Radio-tagged rabbits inoculated with virulent myxoma virus contracted the disease but failed to pass enough virus to other rabbits to spread the disease. Rabbits with clinical signs of myxomatosis that were shot were infected with field strain derived from the original laboratory strain released in 1950 rather than the virulent strain that has been released annually. There was no change in rabbit survival or abundance caused by the release. Nevertheless, the release of virulent virus may be useful against isolated pockets of rabbits mainly because field strains are less likely to be present. Such pockets are more common now that rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus is established in Queensland.

Author D. Berman, P. J. Kerr, R. Stagg, B. H. van Leeuwen and T. Gonzalez
Date 15/11/2006
Year 2006
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 33
Number 7
Pages 549-556
Notes Notes
Control method Biological Control
Region QLD