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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

A new HaCV-EBHSV recombinant lagovirus circulating in European brown hares (Lepus europaeus) from Catalonia, Spain

Almeida, Tereza; Lopes, Ana M.; Estruch, Josep; Rouco, Carlos; Cavadini, Patrizia; Neimanis, Aleksija; Gavier-Widen, Dolores; Le Gall-Recule, Ghislaine; Velarde, Roser; Abrantes, Joana


In 2020/2021, several European brown hare syndrome virus (EBHSV) outbreaks were recorded in European hares (Lepus europaeus) from Catalonia, Spain. Recombination analysis combined with phylogenetic reconstruction and estimation of genetic distances of the complete coding sequences revealed that 5 strains were recombinants. The recombination breakpoint is located within the non-structural protein 2C-like RNA helicase (nucleotide position similar to 1889). For the genomic fragment upstream of the breakpoint, a non-pathogenic EBHSV-related strain (hare calicivirus, HaCV; GII.2) was the most closely related sequence; for the rest of the genome, the most similar strains were the European brown hare syndrome virus (EBHSV) strains recovered from the same 2020/2021 outbreaks, suggesting a recent origin. While the functional impact of the atypical recombination breakpoint remains undetermined, the novel recombinant strain was detected in different European brown hare populations from Catalonia, located 20-100 km apart, and seems to have caused a fatal disease both in juvenile and adult animals, confirming its viability and ability to spread and establish infection. This is the first report of a recombination event involving HaCV and EBHSV and, despite the recombination with a non-pathogenic strain, it appears to be associated with mortality in European brown hares, which warrants close monitoring.

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Scientific Reports
2024, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 2872

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