Biological controls have been the only effective measure to suppress European wild rabbits across Australia to date, providing opportunities for subsequent control through physical measures like ripping and baiting. However the virulence of bio-controls declines over time as the control agent and rabbits evolve, so a ‘pipeline’ of new control agents is necessary to avoid a mass resurgence in rabbit numbers.
One of the difficulties in developing new biological controls is the extensive field work that is required due, in part, to difficulties in using traditional laboratory techniques to grow caliciviruses. New work involving Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), CSIRO and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) is trying to overcome that problem to fast-track work on the ‘pipeline’.
Organoids are self-organising clusters of cells that effectively mimic some features of organs, enabling diseases to be better studied in laboratories. The new project is exploring the use of organoids with rabbit caliciviruses. If successful it will provide a better understanding of the biology of the viruses and a means to overcome one of the hurdles to an efficient rabbit bio-control pipeline.
For more information see the Stock Journal article by Chris McLennan featuring comments from CSIRO veterinary virologist Robyn Hall. The story provides a good overview of rabbit bio-controls in Australia, as well as the organoids project.