Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Prospects for fertility control in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) using myxoma virus-vectored immunocontraception

B. H. van Leeuwen A and P. J. Kerr A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

B Corresponding author. CSIRO Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. Email: peter.kerr@csiro.au

Wildlife Research 34(7) 511-522 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR06167
Submitted: 1 December 2006  Accepted: 26 July 2007   Published: 13 December 2007

Abstract

Research over the last 15 years has examined whether fertility control can reduce overabundant rabbit populations and whether an effective immunocontraceptive agent can be developed and delivered. The results of this research indicate that for fertility control to have an environmental impact at least 80% of females will need to be infertile and that this infertility will need to be permanent. Epidemiological studies suggest that this level of infertility may be very difficult to obtain with a recombinant myxoma virus because of competition with field strains of virus. Research with laboratory rabbits using recombinant myxoma virus to deliver an immunocontraceptive antigen demonstrated that it was possible to obtain the required level of infertility using rabbit zona pellucida C as an antigen. However, only ~50% of animals remained infertile in the medium term. Further research on delivery vector and antigen selection would be needed to produce a practical immunocontraceptive virus for laboratory testing. Such a virus would then need to be optimised for transmissibility before it would be suitable for field testing.


Acknowledgements

We thank our colleagues A. J. Robinson, E. A. McLaughlin, M. K. Holland, H. D. Perkins, A. Wijeratne, B. Inglis, L. E. Perrin and N. French, who contributed to the experimental studies and the unpublished data described in this review.


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