Diseases / List of Viral Diseases / Disease description:

Shope Papilloma Virus Infection in Rabbits

INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLINICAL CHARACTERISTICS & PATHOLOGY

INVESTIGATION & DIAGNOSIS

TREATMENT & CONTROL

SUSCEPTIBILITY & TRANSMISSION

ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY

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General and References

Disease Summary

  • Shope papillomavirus causes sporadic disease in rabbits across North America. (B609.2.w2)
  • Cats, dogs, goats, pigs, mice, guinea pigs and rats are refractory to this virus. (B614.9.w9)
Lagomorphs
  • This viral skin disease occurs commonly in its natural host, the wild cottontail rabbit, Sylvilagus floridanus - Eastern Cottontail, in Eastern USA. The disease is also occasionally seen in the domestic rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus
  • In cottontails, this virus causes a benign cutaneous disease but in the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, the characteristic wart-like skin lesions may progress to malignant neoplasms that resemble squamous cell carcinomas, and metastasis may occur. 

(B209.11.w11, B600.16.w16, B602.18.w18, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Rabbit papillomavirus 
  • Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus

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Disease Type

Viral Infection

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

Shope papilloma virus
  • This is an oncogenic DNA virus. (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2)
    • "The cottontail rabbit (Shope) papillomavirus was the first oncogenic virus to be identified in mammals. In 1933, this virus was found to be associated with the appearance of wartlike tumors in the cottontail rabbit (S floridanus)". (J213.8.w1)
    • Papillomas in Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus - Domestic European rabbit were first reported in southern California in 1966. (J213.4.w4)
  • The Shope papillomavirus is one of two papillomaviruses that may affect rabbits; the other is the rabbit oral papillomavirus (Rabbit Oral Papillomavirus) which causes wart-like growths of the oral cavity and ventral tongue in domestic rabbits. The two viruses are immunologically distinct. (B209.11.w11, B600.16.w16, B602.18.w18)

Infective "Taxa"

Non-infective agents

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Physical agents

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References

Disease Author

Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)
Click image for main Reference Section

Referees

Anna Meredith MA VetMB CertLAS DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS (V.w128); Richard Saunders BVSc BSc CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w121)

Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

B209.11.w11, B600.16.w16, B601.13.w13, B602.18.w18, B606.4.w4, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, B610.23.w23, B614.9.w9, B615.6.w6, J213.4.w4, J213.8.w1

Other References

Code and Title List

 

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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General Cottontail rabbits Sylvilagus spp.
  • Wart-like protruberances along the neck, shoulders and abdomen. (J213.8.w1)
Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus - Domestic European rabbit
  • Horny protruberances, most commonly along the ears and eyelids. Experimental infection in this species has shown that there is a lesser degree of regression of papillomas than in cottontails and also there is a high development rate of carcinomas following infection. (J213.8.w1)

Clinical Characteristics

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Lagomorphs
Cottontail rabbits Sylvilagus- (Genus)
  • Wart-like protruberances along the neck, shoulders and abdomen. (J213.8.w1)
  • The warts start off as red raised areas that develop into papillomas and then eventually become large, keratinised horny growths. "These growths may vanish within a few months or they may become neoplastic in nature and be replaced by squamous cell carcinomas". (J213.8.w1)
  • "The incidence of carcinoma development from viral infection is threefold lower in cottontail rabbits than in domestic rabbits". (B602.18.w18)

Distribution of lesions

  • The neck and shoulders are the areas most commonly affected. (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2)
  • Warts may also occur on the abdomen and thigh. (B602.18.w18)
Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus - Domestic European rabbit
  • Cutaneous nodules that start as raised, well demarcated, red, rough, often circular, cutaneous lesions. (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4) They then progress to:
    • Keratinised, wartlike, often pigmented lesions. (B602.18.w18, J213.4.w4)
    • Multiple horn-like growths especially around the eyelids and pinnae. (B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21, B610.23.w23, J213.4.w4)
  • Usually 1 cm or more in diameter. (B609.2.w2)
  • Frequently friable and bleed easily with trauma. (B609.2.w2)
  • Sometimes lesions may undergo an immune-mediated resolution and disappear within twelve months. (B602.18.w18, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)
    • Recovered rabbits are resistant. (B608.21.w21)
  • However, lesions can undergo malignant transformation to squamous cell carcinoma and there is a possibility of metastasis to axillary lymph nodes. (B602.18.w18, J213.4.w4)
Distribution of lesions
  • The ears and eyelids are the areas that are most commonly affected. 
  • Lesions may also be found on the:
    • feet,
    • abdomen, 
    • thigh. 

(B602.18.w18, B606.4.w4, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, B610.23.w23, B615.6.w6, J213.4.w4)

Incubation

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Lagomorphs
  • --

Mortality / Morbidity

  • --
Lagomorphs
Cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus- (Genus))
  • Around 25% of infected cottontails developed carcinomatous lesions. 
  • Papillomas disappeared within six months after infection in 35% of naturally infected rabbits. 

(B614.9.w9)

Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus - Domestic European rabbit
  • Experimental infection reportedly resulted in approximately 75% of the inoculation sites undergoing a malignant transformation to a squamous cell carcinoma within eight to nine months. (B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21, B610.23.w23)
  • In domestic rabbits, this virus causes a sporadic disease. (B609.2.w2)
  • Shope papillomavirus was the cause of a spontaneous outbreak of papillomatosis in domesticated rabbits from southern California. (J213.8.w1)
  • "The incidence of carcinoma development from viral infection is threefold lower in cottontail rabbits than in domestic rabbits". (B602.18.w18)

Pathology

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Lagomorphs
  • Gross pathology
    • Cutaneous nodules which are red, round, raised keratinised epithelial nodules. (B609.2.w2)
  • Histopathology
    • Lesions are "histologically similar to squamous cell carcinoma". (J213.4.w4)
    • Hyperkeratosis. Sometimes, the characteristic inclusion bodies of papillomaviruses can be identified. (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2)
    • "Metastasis to regional lymph nodes, particularly the axillary nodes, is common...and about 25% of rabbits that succumb have pulmonary metastases". (B614.9.w9)
    • Many rabbits also have amyloid deposition in renal glomeruli, splenic red pulp and hepatic sinusoids. (B614.9.w9)

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Human Health Considerations

No zoonotic potential. (B609.2.w2)

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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

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Lagomorphs
Susceptibility
Transmission

Biting arthropods:

  • Mosquitoes (Culicidae (Family)) (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4, J213.8.w1)
  • Tick infection (B609.2.w2)
    • Haemaphysalis leporis-palustris (the continental rabbit tick) (B602.18.w18)
      • This tick is thought to be the most common vector of the shope papillomavirus in cottontail rabbits because the location of the lesions (neck and shoulders) is highly suggestive of a tick vector (B614.9.w9, J213.8.w1)
  • Reduvid bugs (Reduviidae) (B602.18.w18, B614.9.w9, J213.4.w4, J213.8.w1)
  • Nematodes may also be involved in the natural transmission of this virus. 
    • "Experimentally, papillomas were induced when papillomavirus and larvae of the nematode Nippostrongylus muris were applied to rabbit skin, but not by virus or nematode larvae alone". (B614.9.w9)
  • Direct contact: this is a less common mode of transmission than via arthropod vectors. (B614.9.w9, J213.8.w1)

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Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

Host Species List

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Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

Host Species List

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Environment/Geography

General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • Seen mainly in summer and autumn: this is when outbreaks are more likely to occur because mosquitoes (which are an important vector for this disease) are at their most numerous. (B609.2.w2)

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

North America

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

North America
  • California: wild California brush rabbits (Sylvilagus bachmani - Brush rabbit) (B601.13.w13, B610.23.w2)
  • Eastern USA: wild populations of cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus - Eastern Cottontail). (B600.16.w16, B601.13.w13, B610.23.w23)
  • Midwestern United States (in the cottontail rabbit population) extending from Minnesota and North Dakota to Texas. (B614.9.w9, J213.8.w1)
  • The disease can be found in the Southwest and alongside the Mississippi River. (B608.21.w21)
  • This disease can also be found on coastal islands in Washington (in cottontails) in populations of rabbits that were introduced from Kansas. (B614.9.w9)

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

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Lagomorphs
  • Clinical presentation (J213.8.w1)
  • Virus isolation (B609.2.w2, B610.23.w23)
  • Histopathology of excised nodules (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4, J213.8.w1)
Related Techniques
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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

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Lagomorphs

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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

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Lagomorphs
  • --
Related Techniques

 

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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

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Lagomorphs In Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus - Domestic European rabbit
  • Surgical excision of nodules. (B602.18.w18, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4, J213.8.w1)
  • This is indicated because the nodules are often friable and bleed easily and they can progress to malignant squamous cell carcinomas. (B609.2.w2)
  • However, nodules can sometimes regress spontaneously. (B609.2.w2)
In Sylvilagus spp.
  • Manual removal of lesions usually results in healing. Recovered rabbits are reported to be resistant to reinfection. (B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21, B610.23.w23)
Related Techniques
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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Lagomorphs Vaccinations that have been used experimentally:
  • "Rabbits can be immunized by two intraperitoneal inoculations with glycerinated rabbit papilloma suspensions (Shope, 1937)". (B614.9.w9)
  • "A tumor-specific vaccine composed of allogenic tumor cells increased the regression rate of papillomas (Evans et al., 1962a)". (B614.9.w9)
Prophylactic Treatment

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Lagomorphs  
Related Techniques
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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection --

Lagomorphs

  • Use screening on the rabbit enclosures to keep out insects in endemic areas. (B602.18.w18, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)
  • Keep rabbits indoors. (B609.2.w2)
  • Arthropod vector control in endemic areas. (B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4, J213.8.w1)
Population Control Measures --
Lagomorphs --
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
Lagomorphs --
Related Techniques
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