A study of the epidemiology of myxomatosis and the protozoan liver parasite, Eimeria stiedae, in a population of wild rabbits in Scotland from 1977 to 2010 is reported. Rabbits were collected on a monthly basis resulting in a total of 5,337 animals examined for the infections. The investigation showed that within any 1 year over the 34 years of the investigation the percentage of rabbits with myxomatosis varied between 0 and 24 %, while for E. stiedae infections fluctuated between 3 and 42 %. There were strong seasonal trends in the prevalence of myxomatosis with over 16 % being infected in September and October, and for E. stiedae, peaks of over 40 % of livers infected were recorded in July. From 2007 to 2010, faeces were also examined for coccidia oocysts and parasitic nematode eggs. Rabbits infected with the myxoma virus had mean oocyst counts of 73,665 per gram faeces, while rabbits not infected with the myxoma virus had counts of 31,952 oocysts per gram. Comparable figures for nematode faecal egg counts were 911 per gram in myxomatosis-infected animals and 427 per gram in uninfected animals. The elevated nematode faecal egg counts in rabbits with myxomatosis reflects increased worm burdens already reported, but the elevated counts of coccidial oocysts have not previously been reported. This would suggest that myxomatosis could compromise rabbit immunity to nematodes and coccidia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law