Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Pasteurella multocida

Synonym(s): P. multocida

Contributor(s): Susan Dawson, Glen Cousquer, Molly Varga




  • Genus: Pasteurella.
  • Closely related to the genus Actinobacillus.


  • Rosenbusch and Merchant were the first to propose the name Pasteurella multocida.
  • Pasteurella - after Louis Pasteur.
  • Multocida: from the latin: multus - many; cida - to kill; multocida - many-killing, ie pathogenic for many animals.

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Clinical Effects



  • Carried on the mucous membranes of susceptible host species. Widespread in carnivores.
  • Ubiquitous in the nasopharynx and middle ear of rabbits.


  • Multiplies on mucous membranes of host.


  • Usually via the respiratory tract.
  • Transmission arises mainly through direct contact with nasal secretions from infected rabbits and is likely to be greatest when rhinitis induces sneezing and aerosolization of secretions.
  • Can also be venereally transmitted, as well as vertically (in utero).
  • Insemination equipment can act as a vector of disease, introducing the organism deep into the reproductive tract and traumatizing the mucosa at the same time.
  • Pasteurella organisms may be present in mammary secretions. Manipulation and examination of reproductive does during lactation can also act as a vector in the transmission of disease.

Other factors

  • Ammonia levels in excess of 5 ppm are sufficient to produce paralysis of the cilia of the upper respiratory tract, thus favoring the establishment of disease.
  • Drafts and excessive air movements, together with low humidity levels will also incapacitate the natural defenses of the rabbit's respiratory mucosal surfaces, favoring disease.
  • Overcrowding and poor sanitation will favor the appearance of disease and mastitis in particular.

Pathological effects

  • Rabbits develop little immunity after infection although high levels of IgG can be found in rabbits which are chronically infected.
  • Many infections in rabbits are sub-clinical.
  • Clinical manifestation is a balance between strain variety, pathogenicity and host-immunocompetence.
  • Where the natural defense mechanisms of the rabbit's respiratory tract are compromised, an opportunity exists for commensal Pasteurella organisms to invade and disease is likely to be seen.
  • Disease breakdown(s), especially on rabbit farms, are likely to arise in response to the presence of environmental or physiological stressors.
  • Endotoxins are important in septicemic diseases.
  • The septicemic strains of Pasteurella multocida in rabbits, usually originate from poultry.
  • Thermolabile dermonecrotoxin is important in atrophic rhinitis of pigs and is produced by serotype D.
  • Pathogenic Pasteurellas are all ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) positive.

Diseases caused

  • Serogroup A:
  • Serogroup B:
    • Not recorded in rabbits.
    • Epizootic hemorrhagic septicemia in ruminants.
    • Also found as commensals.
  • Serogroup D:
  • Serogroup E:
    • Not recorded in rabbits.
    • Epizootic hemorrhagic septicemia in cattle and water buffalo in Africa.
  • Serogroup F:
    • Recorded for the first time in rabbits in 2004.
    • Found in turkeys - role unclear.


Control via animal

  • Measures to reduce individual stress, improved nutritional status, diagnosis and treatment of concurrent medical issues.

Control via chemotherapies

Control via environment

  • Measures to reduce stressors in environment, eg improved hygiene (reduced ammonia levels, reduced particulate matter in air) reduced stocking density, improved nutritional status.


  • Killed vaccine available for cattle, poultry and pigs.
  • A number of vaccines have been developed and trialed against pasteurellosis with varying success. The protective immunity produced results in a decrease in morbidity.

Other countermeasures

  • Where pasteurellosis has become a problem on a rabbit farm, a wide-ranging set of measures, including vaccination, the elimination of all carriers and a strict hygiene plan, is likely to be required before the status quo can be re-established.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Jaglic Z, Kucerova Z, Nedbalcova K et al (2006) Characterisation of Pasteurella multocida isolated from rabbits in the Czech Republic. Veterinarni Medicini 51 (5), 278-287 VetMedResource.
  • Jaglic Z, Kucerova Z, Nedbalcova K et al (2004) Identification of Pasteurella multocida serogroup F isolates in rabbits. J Vet Med - Series B: Inf Dis & Vet Pub Health 51 (10), 467-469 PubMed.
  • Takashima H, Sakai H, Yanai T et al (2001) Detection of antibodies against Pasteurella multocida using immunohistochemical staining in an outbreak of rabbit pasteurellosis. J Vet Med Sci 63 (2), 171-174 PubMed.
  • Sanchez S, Ritchie B W, Mizan S et al (2000) Pasteurellosis in rabbits. Comp Cont Educ Pract Vet 22 (4), 344-352 VetMedResource.
  • Suckow M A (2000) Immunization of rabbits against Pasteurella multocida using a commercial swine vaccine. Lab Anim 34 (4) 403-408 PubMed.
  • Kawamoto E, Sawada T & Maruyama T (1997) Evaluation of transport media for Pasteurella multocida isolates from rabbit nasal specimens. J Clin Microbiol 35 (8), 1948-1951 PubMed.
  • Mohan K, Sadza M, Madsen M et al (1994) Phenotypic characterisation of Zimbabwean isolates of Pasteurella multocida. Vet Microbiol 38 (4), 351-357 VetMedResource.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Deeb B J, Brodie S J et al (1993) Toxin production by Pasteurella multocida isolated from rabbits with atrophic rhinitis. Am J Vet Res 54 (8), 1280-1286 PubMed.
  • Frymus T, Bielecki W & Jakubowski T (1991) Toxigenic Pasterella multocida in rabbits with naturally occuring atrophic rhinitis. Zentralbi Veterinarmed [B] 38 (4), 265-268 PubMed.
  • Deeb B J, DiGiacomo R F, Bernard B L et al (1990) Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella bronchoseptica infections in rabbits. J Clin Microbiol 28 (1), 70-75 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Taylor F G, Allen V et al (1990) Naturally acquired Pasteurella multicida infection in rabbits - immunological aspects. Lab Anim Sci 40 (3), 289-292 PubMed.
  • Glávits R & Magyar T (1990) The pathology of experimental respiratory infection with Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella bronchoseptica in rabbits. Acta Vet Hung 38 (3), 211-215 PubMed.
  • Al-Lebban Z S, Corbeil L B, Coles E H (1988) Rabbit pasteurellosis - induced disease and vaccination. Am J Vet Res 49 (3), 312-316 PubMed.
  • Jones S M & Carrington S D (1988) Pasteurella dacryocystitis in rabbits. Vet Rec 122 (21), 514-515 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Jones C D, Wathes C M (1987) Transmission of Pasteurella multocida in rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 37 (5), 621-623 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Garlinghouse L E Jr. & Van Hoosier G L Jr. (1983) Natural history of infection with Pasteurella multocida in rabbits. JAVMA 183 (11), 1172-1175 PubMed.
  • Glorioso J C, Jones G W, Rush H G et al (1982) Adhesion of type A Pasteurella multocida to rabbit pharyngeal cells and its possible role in rabbit respiratory tract infections. Inf & Immun 35 (3), 1103-1109 PubMed.
  • Collins F M (1977) Mechanisms of acquired resistance to Pasteurella multocida infection: a review. Cornell Vet 67 (1), 103-138 PubMed.
  • Watson W T, Goldsboro J A, Williams F P et al (1975) Experimental respiratory infection with Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella bronchiseptica in rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 25 (4), 459-464 PubMed.
  • Heddlestone K L, Gallagher J E & Rebers P A (1972) Fowl cholera: gel diffusion precipitin test for serotyping Pasteurella multocida from avian species. Avian Dis 16 (4), 925-936 PubMed.
  • Belin R P & Banta R G (1971) Successful control of snuffles in a rabbit colony. JAVMA 159 (5), 622-623 PubMed.
  • Namioka S & Murata M (1961) Serological studies on Pasteurella multocida. Characteristics of somatic O antigen of the organism. Cornell Vet 51, 507-521.
  • Hagen K W Jr. (1958) Enzootic pasteurellosis in domestic rabbits. I. Pathology and bacteriology. JAVMA 133, 77-80 VetMedResource.
  • Rosenbusch C T & Merchant L A (1939) A study of the haemorrhagic Pasteurella septicemia. J Bacteriol 37, 69-89 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Deeb B J (1997) Respiratory Disease and the Pasteurella Complex. In: Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents - Clinical Medicine & Surgery. Eds: Hillyer E V & Queensberry E J. W B Saunders, USA. pp 189-201.
  • Manning P J, Digiacomo R F & Delong D (1989) Pasteurellosis in Laboratory Animals. In: Pasteurella & Pasteurellosis. Eds: Adlam C & Rutter J M. Academic Press, USA. pp 263-302.