In Australia, pest vertebrates continue to generate major economic and conservation damage in the agricultural, pastoral and environmental sectors. Wild house mouse (Mus domesticus) plagues periodically cause major economic loss and social distress (Caughley et al. 1994; Singleton et al. 2005), while European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), introduced in the late 1850s and 1860s, continue to directly affect both agricultural and pastoral productivity as well as the survival of our unique flora and fauna (Saunders et al. 1995; Williams et al. 1995; McLeod 2004; Saunders and McLeod 2007). A cost-effective, humane solution to their broad-scale management is still required.
Since the myxomatosis epizootic in Australia in 1950?51, CSIRO Wildlife Research had been researching the ecology of wild rabbits, their social behaviour and the epidemiology and insect vectors of the myxoma virus (see references in Williams et al. 1995). By 1984 it was concluded that the wild type virus and the rabbit populations had reached equilibrium and that further research on myxoma virus should aim to increase its efficacy. To begin to achieve this, an understanding of the genome of the myxoma virus was essential: Russell and Robbins (1989) characterised part of the genome of the myxoma virus and demonstrated its close homology to vaccinia virus. Since it had already been shown that a recombinant vaccinia virus could express inserted genes of the rabies pathogen (Kieny et al. 1984), Russell and Robbins? (1989) results opened the possibility that the myxoma virus could be similarly used to carry foreign genes that enhanced its virulence in rabbits.
|Secondary title||Wildlife Research special edition|
|Control method||Fertility Control|