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Open Access Methodology

A sensitive and specific blocking ELISA for the detection of rabbit calicivirus RCV-A1 antibodies

June Liu12, Peter J Kerr1 and Tanja Strive12*

Author Affiliations

1 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Ecosystem Sciences Division, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia

2 Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:182  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-182

Published: 3 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Antibodies to non-pathogenic rabbit caliciviruses (RCVs) cross-react in serological tests for rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) and vice versa, making epidemiological studies very difficult where both viruses occur. It is important to understand the distribution and interaction of the two viruses because the highly pathogenic RHDV has been used as a biocontrol agent for wild rabbits in Australia and New Zealand for the past 17 years. The presence of the benign RCV Australia 1 (RCV-A1) is considered a key factor for the failure of RHDV mediated rabbit control in cooler, wetter areas of Australia.

Results

A highly sensitive and specific blocking ELISA was developed for the detection of RCV-A1 antibodies. When sera from rabbits with a known infection history for either RCV-A1 or RHDV were tested, this assay showed 100% sensitivity and no cross-reactivity with RHDV sera (100% specificity).

Conclusions

This new ELISA not only allows the detection of RCV-A1 at a population level, but also permits the serological status of individual rabbits to be determined more reliably than previously described methods. This robust and simple to perform assay is therefore the tool of choice for studying RCV-A1 epidemiology in Australian wild rabbit populations.

Keywords:
Blocking ELISA; RCV-A1; RHDV; Epidemiology; Cross-reactive antibody; Specificity; Sensitivity