Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) isolates were obtained from several animals previously vaccinated with an inactivated vaccine. Seven isolates were analyzed by immunological and molecular biological methods and compared to reference strains. Antigenic characterization with monoclonal antibodies as well as haemagglutination assays demonstrated considerable differences between individual isolates. However, sequencing of the capsid protein genes revealed a high degree of homology between five of these isolates and the reference strain FRG. In contrast, two isolates specified remarkably different capsid proteins with a degree of variation not observed so far in RHDV. Amino acid alterations were found clustered between residues 301 and 328 (region C), 344 and 434 (region E) and also in the 3′ region of the capsid protein gene. Interestingly, experimental vaccination of rabbits followed by challenge with the heterologous variant strains showed restricted cross-protection against one of the strains. In summary, we found a level of antigenic variation not detected in RHDV so far, and describe two distinct new antigenic variants.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 1, 1999
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