The myxoma virus found in Australia has evolved to better suppress the immune system of rabbits, according to a team of Australian and American researchers. Rabbits with a weakened immune system will also be more vulnerable to other diseases.
The team, led by Peter Kerr from the University of Sydney and CSIRO, concluded the myxoma virus had continued to evolve in wild rabbits in Australia, in a battle to overcome the selection pressure on wild rabbits to evolve genetic resistance to the disease. The findings have relevance for future rabbit control programs, and to the study of infectious diseases in general.
For more information, read the research article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.