Genetic characterization of a recombinant myxoma virus in the iberian hare (Lepus granatensis)

Ana Águeda-Pinto, Ana Lemos de Matos, Mário Abrantes, Simona Kraberger, Maria A. Risalde, Christian Gortázar, Grant McFadden, Arvind Varsani, Pedro J. Esteves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Myxomatosis is a lethal disease in wild European and domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which is caused by a Myxoma virus (MYXV) infection—a leporipoxvirus that is found naturally in some Sylvilagus rabbit species in South America and California. The introduction of MYXV into feral European rabbit populations of Australia and Europe, in the early 1950s, demonstrated the best-documented field example of host–virus coevolution, following a cross-species transmission. Recently, a new cross-species jump of MYXV has been suggested in both Great Britain and Spain, where European brown hares (Lepus europaeus) and Iberian hares (Lepus granatensis) were found dead with lesions consistent with those observed in myxomatosis. To investigate the possibility of a new cross-species transmission event by MYXV, tissue samples collected from a wild Iberian hare found dead in Spain (Toledo region) were analyzed and deep sequenced. Our results reported a new MYXV isolate (MYXV Toledo) in the tissues of this species. The genome of this new virus was found to encode three disruptive genes (M009L, M036L, and M152R) and a novel ~2.8 kb recombinant region, which resulted from an insertion of four novel poxviral genes towards the 3’ end of the negative strand of its genome. From the open reading frames inserted into the MYXV Toledo virus, a new orthologue of a poxvirus host range gene family member was identified, which was related to the MYXV gene M064R. Overall, we confirmed the identity of a new MYXV isolate in Iberian hares, which, we hypothesized, was able to more effectively counteract the host defenses in hares and start an infectious process in this new host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number530
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Lepus granatensis
  • Myxoma virus
  • Poxvirus
  • Recombinant virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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