Chapter 38 : Myxomatosis: Grim Questions

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Questions like "Do we want rabbits to suffer and die from myxomatosis, or should we seek instead to protect them against such a grotesque, disfiguring, painful disease?" might appear to be callously superfluous in the case of other pathogens and hosts. Myxoma virus, however, poses a genuine dilemma. Though not wholly new, the perplexity was sharpened considerably at the turn of the 21st century by myxomatosis vaccine research in Spain, which threatened pest control in Australia. There have, however, been two significant changes since the first efforts at biological control. The first alteration was in the virulence of the myxoma virus. Second, genetic changes in both the microbial and host populations can quickly alter the ground rules, though the extent to which this happens depends on environmental factors and on intelligent anticipation. Juan Torres claimed that myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease were endangering the survival not only of rabbits, but also of their natural predators. In this context, a vaccination initiative could be seen as a conservation measure as important as efforts to protect elephants in Africa or whales in the oceans.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. Myxomatosis: Grim Questions, p 175-178. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch38
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1. Burnet, F. M. 1940. Biological Aspects of Infectious Disease. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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