• A century of Shope Papillomavirus in museum rabbit specimens

      Duch, Clara Esucdero; Williams, Richard; Timm, Robert M; Perez-Tris, Javier; Benitez, Laura; Department of Microbiology III, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Universidad Complutense de Madrid,; Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Universidad Complutense de Madrid; Natural Sciences, Saint Louis University, Madrid,; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Natural History Museum, University of Kansas (Public Library of Science, 2015-07-06)
      Sylvilagus floridanus Papillomavirus (SfPV) causes growth of large horn-like tumors on rabbits. SfPV was described in cottontail rabbits (probably Sylvilagus floridanus) from Kansa and Iowa by Richard Shope in 1933, and detected in S. audubonii in 2011. It is known almost exclusively from the US Midwest. We explored the University of Kansas Natural History Museum for historical museum specimens infected with SfPV, using molecular techniques, to assess if additional wild species host SfPV, and whether SfPV occurs throughout the host range, or just in the Midwest. Secondary aims were to detect distinct strains, and evidence for strain spatio-temporal specificity. We found 20 of 1395 rabbits in the KU collection SfPV symptomatic. Three of 17 lagomorph species (S. nuttallii, and the two known hosts) were symptomatic, while Brachylagus, Lepus and eight additional Sylvilagus species were not. 13 symptomatic individuals were positive by molecular testing, including the first S. nuttallii detection. Prevalence of symptomatic individuals was significantly higher in Sylvilagus (1.8%) than Lepus. Half of these specimens came from Kansas, though new molecular detections were obtained from Jalisco—Mexico’s first—and Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, USA. We document the oldest lab-confirmed case (Kansas, 1915), predating Shope’s first case. SfPV amplification was possible from 63.2% of symptomatic museum specimens. Using multiple methodologies, rolling circle amplification and, multiple isothermal displacement amplification in addition to PCR, greatly improved detection rates. Short sequences were obtained from six individuals for two genes. L1 gene sequences were identical to all previously detected sequences; E7 gene sequences, were more variable, yielding five distinct SfPV1 strains that differing by less than 2% from strains circulating in the Midwest and Mexico, between 1915 and 2005. Our results do not clarify whether strains are host species specific, though they are consistent with SfPV specificity to genus Sylvilagus.