Experimental infection of wild-caught European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) with Sarcoptes scabiei from a naturally infected wild rabbit


Javier Millán, Servei d’Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS) (Wildlife Diseases Research Group), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain. Tel.: +34 935 868 190; Fax: + 34 935 812 006; E-mail: syngamustrachea@hotmail.com


Scabies was recently reported for the first time in the European wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (Lagomorpha: Leporidae). We experimentally exposed 10 seronegative wild-caught rabbits to skin from a mangy wild rabbit. Serological, physiological, parasitological and histopathological changes were recorded. Three rabbits developed antibodies at 2–5 weeks post-infection (w.p.i.), two of which then developed lesions at 7 w.p.i. One of these had a small area of alopecia on the hind limb that healed naturally within 1 week; the other developed more extensive lesions restricted to the hind limbs (as typically observed in wild rabbits) that lasted until the rabbit died (12.5 w.p.i.). The third rabbit died of trauma 5 w.p.i. before developing any lesions. Antibodies in the healed rabbit disappeared from serum at 8 w.p.i., whereas antibody levels in the sick rabbit increased until its death. Disseminated intravascular coagulation and hepatic necrosis, probably arising from a concomitant infection with rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, were the likely final cause of death in this rabbit. The mangy rabbit that served as a donor died of a multifocal fibrinosuppurative pneumonia that may have been secondary to the skin bacterial pyoderma.