Pathological changes and viral antigen distribution in tissues of Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) naturally infected with the emerging recombinant myxoma virus (ha-MYXV)
A cross-species jump was confirmed in 2018, when a novel recombinant myxoma virus (MYXV) (ha-MYXV) caused high mortality in Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) in the Iberian Peninsula. The aim of this study was to evaluate the main lesions, tissular distribution and target cells of ha-MYXV in Iberian hare. Gross postmortem examinations and histological and immunohistochemical studies to detect ha-MYXV were carried out in 28 animals that were confirmed as ha-MYXV positive by PCR. The main macroscopic lesions were bilateral blepharoconjunctivitis, epistaxis, intense congestion and oedema in several organs and some internal haemorrhages. Visible myxomas were not found. Histopathological examination revealed hyperplastic epidermis with predominant hyperkeratosis and myxoid matrix in the dermis. ha-MYXV-positive keratinocytes showed hydropic degeneration and cytoplasmic inclusion bodies. Alveolar oedema, interstitial pneumonia, dramatic lymphoid depletion in the spleen and necrosis in the liver and testis were observed. ha-MYXV was mainly detected in epithelial and myxoma cells in the skin, and also in macrophages, lymphocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells in several organs, as well as in hepatocytes and Leydig cells. A non-homogeneous number of samples were included in all the animals. Future experimental studies with controlled variables are necessary. These findings correspond to an unusual form of myxomatosis, characterised by an acute or hyperacute presentation.