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DNA study sheds light on myxoma resistance
Australia released myxomatosis in 1950 to tackle the burgeoning rabbit population.
Modern rabbits compared with specimens from before 1950s outbreak

An unprecedented rabbit DNA study has shed light on how rabbits have acquired resistance to myxomatosis.

Research led by the University of Cambridge and the CIBIO Institute in Porto looked at DNA from nearly 200 rabbits spanning 150 years and thousands of miles.

The team sequenced nearly 20,000 genes to pinpoint mutations since the myxomatosis pandemic in the 1950s.

According to findings published in the journal Science, modern rabbits in the UK, France and Australia, have acquired resistance to the myxoma virus through the same genetic changes. They also discovered that this process relied on lots of small mutations in different genes, rather than big changes in single genes.

Findings also suggest the protein that helps rabbits fight myxoma, also has an antiviral effect on an unrelated virus, vesicular stomatitis.

Miguel Carneiro, from CIBIO said: “While battling myxoma, rabbits may have increased their resistance to other viruses including, perhaps, rabbit haemorrhagic disease which is killing so many animals right now.”

Australia released myxomatosis in 1950 to tackle the burgeoning rabbit population, which was impacting the country’s native plants and animals. It is thought that the European rabbit was introduced to the country in the 1850s and within a century the population grew to hundreds of millions.

Within three months of releasing myxomatosis, it had spread 2,000km and killed 99 per cent of infected animals. It was illegally introduced to France in 1952 and spread to the UK in 1953, with similarly devastating consequences in all three countries.

Myxoma continues to present a serious threat to rabbits. Lead author Dr Joel Alves said: “Viral evolution appears to be finding ways to counter the genetic adaptations which we’ve observed. Recent, more virulent recent strains of myxoma virus, have been found to be extremely immunosuppressive. So the arms race goes on.”

As rabbit populations collapse across the UK and mainland Europe, researchers said the findings could provide clues to the future of the species.

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Registrations open for overseas veterinary professionals course

News Story 1
 Registrations are now open for the RCVS CPD course for overseas veterinary professionals, which covers an introduction to the UK veterinary professions.

The course is aimed at overseas-qualified veterinary surgeons and nurses during their first two years of working in the UK, in addition to those considering working here. It provides graduates with the key information and skills required to practice in the UK, as well as helping them understand their legal duties as veterinary professionals.

For more information and to book your place please click here. The course will be held at Belgravia House, London, on Wednesday 12 June.  

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News Shorts
BVA launches award to celebrate young vets

A new award has been launched to celebrate inspirational young vets who are making a difference in their day to day work.

Nominations are now open for the BVA Young Vet of the Year Award, which is the first of its kind. It is open to all vets registered with the RCVS in the first eight years of their careers, working in any veterinary sphere, including clinical practice, research, education or veterinary politics. Organisers are looking for an ‘exceptional young vet’ whose work has benefitted the veterinary community or the workplace.

The awards are open for self-entry and nominations by 1 August 2019. The winner will be announced at London Vet Show on 14 November 2019, where a £1000 cash prize will be awarded, alongside a ‘career enhancing experience’ with Zoetis.