A Rabbit Model for Sheep-Associated Malignant Catarrhal Fever Research: from Virus Infection to Pathogenesis Studies and Vaccine Development

  • Cristina W. CunhaEmail author
  • Donal O’Toole
  • Naomi S. Taus
  • Smriti Shringi
  • Donald P. Knowles
  • Hong Li
Virology (A Nicola, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Virology


Purpose of Review

Describe the implementation and use of rabbits as a laboratory model for sheep-associated malignant catarrhal fever (SA-MCF) research using cell-free ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2). Key considerations regarding the use of the model to generate consistent experimental data are presented and discussed in detail.

Recent Findings

A major drawback to SA-MCF research is that OvHV-2 cannot be propagated in cell culture and experimental studies rely only on animals. An important research milestone was the finding that infectious cell-free OvHV-2 from nasal secretions of shedding sheep can be used to experimentally induce SA-MCF in various host species. Using this approach, we have demonstrated that rabbits can be infected with OvHV-2 and that infection parameters, such as dose-dependence, and clinical and pathological manifestations, resemble those in natural hosts.


Rabbits are a reliable model for SA-MCF and represent an important resource for experimental research. The model is especially useful to investigate virus-host interactions and to evaluate MCF vaccine strategies.


Ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2) Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) Rabbits Animal model 



We thank the many colleagues, staff and students, past and present, involved in the experiments performed in our laboratory and described in this review. We also thank Dr. Reginaldo Bastos for the critical review of the manuscript.


Preparation of this article and the experiments performed by the authors were supported by USDA-RS-CWU grant 2090-32000-037-00D.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Cristina W. Cunha, Donal O’Toole, Naomi S. Taus, Smriti Shringi, Donald P. Knowles, and Hong Li each declare no potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina W. Cunha
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Donal O’Toole
    • 4
  • Naomi S. Taus
    • 1
    • 3
  • Smriti Shringi
    • 3
  • Donald P. Knowles
    • 3
  • Hong Li
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Animal Disease Research UnitUSDA-Agricultural Research ServicePullmanUSA
  2. 2.Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal HealthWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  3. 3.Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary MedicineWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  4. 4.Wyoming State Veterinary LaboratoryUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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