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Full-genome sequencing of German rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus uncovers recombination between RHDV (GI.2) and EBHSV (GII.1)

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV; genotypes GI.1 and GI.2) and European brown hare syndrome virus (EBHSV; genotype GII.1) are caliciviruses belonging to the genus Lagovirus. These viruses pose a serious threat to wild and domestic rabbit and hare populations around the world. In recent years, an expanding genetic diversity has been described within the genus, with recombination events occurring between the different genotypes. Here, we generated and analysed 56 full-genome sequences of RHDV and EBHSV from rabbit and hare livers, collected in Germany between the years 2013 and 2020. We could show that genotype Gl.2 (RHDV-2) almost entirely replaced Gl.1 (classical RHDV) in the German rabbit population. However, GI.1 is still present in Germany and has to be included into disease control and vaccination strategies. Three recombinant strains were identified from rabbit samples that contain the structural genes of genotype Gl.2 and the non-structural genes of genotype Gl.1b. Of special interest is the finding that sequences from two hare samples showed recombination events between structural genes of RHDV Gl.2 and non-structural genes of EBHSV GII.1, a recombination between different genogroups that has not been described before. These findings lead to the assumption that also a recombination of the non-structural genes of RHDV Gl.2 with the structural genes of EBHSV Gll.1 might be possible and therefore increase the potential genetic variability of lagoviruses immensely. Our findings underline the importance of whole genome analysis with next-generation sequencing technology as one of new tools now available for in-depth studies that allow in depth molecular epidemiology with continuous monitoring of the genetic variability of viruses that would otherwise likely stay undetected if only routine diagnostic assays are used.



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