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Complete genome sequence of an astrovirus identified in a domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) with gastroenteritis

Mark D Stenglein1, Eric Velazquez1, Cheryl Greenacre2, Rebecca P Wilkes3, J Graham Ruby1, Julia S Lankton3, Donald Ganem14, Melissa A Kennedy3 and Joseph L DeRisi14*

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Microbiology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

2 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, TN, USA

3 Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, TN, USA

4 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD, USA

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:216  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-216

Published: 22 September 2012


A colony of domestic rabbits in Tennessee, USA, experienced a high-mortality (~90%) outbreak of enterocolitis. The clinical characteristics were one to six days of lethargy, bloating, and diarrhea, followed by death. Heavy intestinal coccidial load was a consistent finding as was mucoid enteropathy with cecal impaction. Preliminary analysis by electron microscopy revealed the presence of virus-like particles in the stool of one of the affected rabbits. Analysis using the Virochip, a viral detection microarray, suggested the presence of an astrovirus, and follow-up PCR and sequence determination revealed a previously uncharacterized member of that family. Metagenomic sequencing enabled the recovery of the complete viral genome, which contains the characteristic attributes of astrovirus genomes. Attempts to propagate the virus in tissue culture have yet to succeed. Although astroviruses cause gastroenteric disease in other mammals, the pathogenicity of this virus and the relationship to this outbreak remains to be determined. This study therefore defines a viral species and a potential rabbit pathogen.

Rabbit astrovirus; Rabbit virus; Virus discovery; Virochip; Gastroenteritis; Diarrhea virus; Mucoid enteropathy; Enterocolitis