Studies on the aetiological agents of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) and European brown hare syndrome show that the viruses responsible for these infections can be placed in the family Caliciviridae. Established members of this group are vesicular exanthema virus (prototype), San Miguel sea lion virus and feline calicivirus. The human hepatitis E virus and the Norwalk agent may soon be included. The RHD virus genome consists of a positive stranded RNA molecule composed of 7437 nucleotides. A major subgenomic RNA of 2.2 kb, colinear with the 3′ end of the genomic RNA, can also be recovered from infected liver tissue, and both RNAs are enclosed within viral capsids formed by a single major protein of approximately 60 kDa. Electron microscopic examination of organ suspensions from diseased animals shows two types of particle; 35-40 nm complete virions have the regularly arranged cup-shaped depressions typical of calicivirus morphology, and 23-25 nm smooth particles resulting from degradation of the outer surface structures of the complete virions.
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