Wild rabbits in Australia lie in six genetic clusters, most likely reflecting different sources of introduction. It raises the question of whether their differing genetics influences their susceptibility to infection by diseases such as RHDV.
In work funded by RabbitFree Australia, Dr Amy Iannella did some investigating; discovering that of 135 resistance genes tested, only one appeared to vary based on ancestry – but that gene (MHC class 1) is important in immunology. It helps the body to identify viruses and other infections, and target them for destruction.
The MHC variants common in WA and SA are uncommon in the eastern States, and vice versa. This research suggests that genetic variation in rabbits from different areas could be one factor influencing the effectiveness of any given virus or disease on rabbits.
For more information, see:
- Summary Article – Should we care that rabbit genes are different around Australia?
- Final (Technical) Report – Which rabbit genes are different around Australia?