Lapis ISSN 2398-2969


Contributor(s): Susan Dawson, Livia Benato




  • Family: Reoviridae.
  • Genus:Rotavirus.

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Clinical Effects



  • Generally it is distributed in the intestinal tract of multiple mammalian species.
  • However, rotavirus can also be found transiently in feed and water.


  • Once the virus is ingested it is able to survive the low gastric pH and infects the columnar eipthelial cells of villi apices.
  • Viral multiplication happens intracellulary with extensive cellular damage.


  • Feco-oral transmission: the virus is shed in the feces of infected rabbits.
  • Transmission by aerosol has been reported in mice but not confirmed in rabbits.

Pathological effects

  • The virus destroys the enterocytes of intestinal villi. The loss of brush-border enzymes leads to osmotic diarrhea.
  • Histologically, villous atrophy and desquamation and degeneration of the enterocytes on the tips of the villi are present.
  • Secondary infections occur often due toClostridiumspp   Clostridium difficile    Clostridium piliforme   andE. coli  Escherichia coli  .


Control via animal

  • There is no treatment or cure for the rotavirus. However, the infection appears to be self-limiting if young rabbits are not introduced into the infected colony.
  • Experimentally, the virus is shed in the feces for one week. Therefore, it appears that the infection due to rotavirus could be controlled by temporary cessation of breeding for 4-6 weeks.

Control via chemotherapies

  • There is no cure for the virus itself. Supportive therapy will improve the life quality of the infected rabbit while the disease runs its course.
  • The osmotic diarrhea caused by the viral infection leads to the loss of fluids and electrolytes. Supplemental electrolytes must be provided to restore the fluid balance   Fluid therapy  .
  • Antibiotics   Therapeutics: antimicrobials   should also be administered to prevent secondary infection.

Control via environment

  • Sanitary and hygiene practices should minimize exposure.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • D'Souza R M, Hall G & Becker N G (2008) Climatic factors associated with hospitalizations for rotavirus diarrhoea in children under 5 years of age. Epidemiol Infect 136 (1), 56-64 PubMed.
  • Fischer T K, Steinsland H & Valentiner-Branth P (2002) Rotavirus particles can survive storage in ambient tropical temperatures for more than 2 months. J Clin Microbiol 40 (12), 4763-4764 PubMed.
  • Thouless M E, DiGiacomo R F, Deeb B J et al (1988) Pathogenicity of rotavirus in rabbits. J Clin Microbiol 26 (5), 943-947 PubMed.
  • Estes M K, Graham D Y, Smith E M et al (1979) Rotavirus stability and inactivation. J Gen Virol 43 (2), 403-409 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Boshuizen J (2005) Pathogenesis of Rotavirus Infection Thesis. Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
  • Aiello S E (1998) Exotic and Laboratory Animals. In: Merck's Veterinary Manual. 8th edn. pp 1263-1433.