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Rabbit calici virus adapts? (Alwyn Smith)

Allan Munro editorgt at iconz.co.nz
Thu Dec 14 04:51:26 EST 1995

In article <4alja7$n75 at golem.wcc.govt.nz>, Rachel Priebee
<Priebee_R at wcc.govt.nz> wrote:

> bsandle at southern.co.nz (Brian Sandle) wrote:
> >
> > I have recently heard Alwyn Smith of Oregon State University speaking
> > about rabbit calici virus. He says that the people who say it will not
> > adapt to other species are hoping that it will differ from other calici
> > viruses in that respect. The other calici viruses do adapt.
> > 
> > It is being debated whether to release it in New Zealand.
> Why do they think it won't adapt, if it has done so in the past?

Definitive answers on these questions have to come from the scientists
but... there are a group of calici viral agents (5 I think) present in
about 40 countries. Two are generally specific to cats and dogs and we
cope with those with the standard shots your pets get from the vet. I
understand that, in some countries, these have adapted to other species.

The rabbit virus (RCD) is, on present evidence, thought to be unlikely to
adapt to infect other species. That's the view of the Aussies who let it
escape, and, currently, of the NZ scientists who are frantically testing
it on (4) kiwis and a couple of native bats. The Oregon University people
disagree and insist it will eventually adapt or mutate, or at least that
the risks are too great to support its deliberate introduction as a pest
control agent.

As far as we're concerned it's academic - now that it's loose in OZ it's
inevitable that it will reach here, if not accidentally then at least one
of the farmers who lost the fight to reintroduce myxamotosis will try to
smuggle it in. But it'll probably get past the controls without any help
from those who think we should introduce RCD or something equally

I'm no scientist but personally I think RCD will cross-species adapt
eventually. It might take a few years but I think it'll hit dogs and cats
sooner or later, and maybe native species. There's no greater survivor
than a virus. Roll on genetic fertility controls, the only safe and humane
method of controlling pests but we'll probably be waiting another 10 years
for those.

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