First detected case of rabbit Haemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in the Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus)

Aideen Kennedy, Louise Britton, Andrew W. Byrne*, Christina Byrne, Mícheál Casey, Orla Flynn, Jose Maria Lozano, Ferdia Marnell, Maire McElroy, Neil Reid, Margaret Wilson, William FitzGerald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is a Lagovirus, a subgroup of the family Caliciviridae. RHDV2 is a variant first described in France in 2010, and has since spread globally. It has been reported in several Lagomorph species (rabbits, hares, and their relatives) as well as other mammals including voles and shrews. The disease has raised international concerns for its potential impact on population abundance trajectories, particularly as 25% of Lagomorphs are currently Red-Listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus) is a subspecies of the mountain hare, L. timidus, and is endemic to Ireland, making it an Evolutionarily Significant Unit of intrinsic value. Case presentation: The first case of RHDV2 was detected in a wild Irish hare in July 2019. The individual exhibited atypical neurological behaviour (running in circles) prior to death. On necropsy, pink tinged foam was seen in the trachea and congestion was noted in the lungs, but there was no evidence of haemorrhages in any other organ. Both the liver and spleen were tested by reverse transcription real time qPCR confirming high levels of RHDV2 RNA. Histopathology confirmed multifocal necrotising hepatitis. Conclusion: The Irish hare is susceptible to RHDV2 infection. Further investigation is warranted to explore the clinical, epidemiological, and population biology implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalIrish Veterinary Journal
Issue number1
Early online date18 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Damien Barrett (One Health Scientific Support Team, DAFM) to discussions regarding this case, and for reading/commenting on a final draft of the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Calicivirus
  • Endemic species
  • Hare coursing
  • RHDV2
  • RT-PCR
  • Wildlife disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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