European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Diseases/Immune System

Just as in humans, there are certain bacteria, parasites, and viruses that cause diseases in Oryctolagus cuniculus.  Many different species of bacteria are responsible for large number of diseases, such as respiratory infections.  These single celled organisms produce toxins and enzymes with allow them to invade healthy tissue and cause pathogens.  If the bacteria reach the bloodstream, it is spread to tissues throughout the body, and death usually follows quickly after.

Myxomatosis infected rabbitThere are also viral diseases such as rabbit pox and myxomatosis that infect the rabbit hosts.  Viruses mutate the host cell, focusing the energy of the cell on making new virus copies.  The cells then often rupture and the new copies of the virus are released.  Sometimes, the virus alters the genetic patterns responsible for growth of the cell, causing it to undergo rapid mitosis, forming a tumor.  An example of this type of virus is Rabbit Oral Papillomatosis.    Unlike most bacteria, viruses cannot survive outside the living host cell, and the use of antibiotics and drugs are usually ineffective.  However, there are viral vaccinations available for some viral diseases.  This is mainly used for domesticated pets in households.

Another picture of myxomatosis
Rabbits can also become infected by fungi, such as ringworm, and is usually caused by molds or yeasts.  These infections can be external as well as internal, but external infections are more common.  These can sometimes be problematic to treat because the spores of the fungi chemicals and heat often have no affect on the spores.

Oryctolagus cuniculus can also act as a host for different types of parasites.  These parasites often affect growth, reproduction, and the energy and productiveness of the rabbit, and can end up killing the rabbit.  There are two classes of parasites: endoparasites, which are internal and often found in the intestines and other tissues, and ectoparasites, which are external and can be found on the fur and skin.  Endoparasites can cause blood loss, may produce toxic materials inside the host, or cause an array of other pathogens.  Some internal parasites that use the rabbit as a host include protozoan such as coccidian, amoebas, and malarial organisms.  Some platyhelminthes such as flatworms, flukes, and tapeworms can also infect the European Rabbit.  Some nematode can also infect the rabbit host, such as large and small round worms, hookworms, and pinworms.  Examples of external parasites include mites and ticks, as well as lice and fleas.  


Immune Response:

Although there are many things in the world that can cause pathogens and sometimes death in Oryctolagus cuniculus, it has a complex immune system ready to fight the invaders.  The mucous membranes are the first line of defense, acting like barriers.  Some fluids secreted by the rabbit’s body act as antibacterial properties.  The acidic gastric juices also slow bacterial growth.  Just as in humans, the rabbit has white blood cells that can destroy pathogenic organisms.  The infection also stimulates the release of antibodies which neutralize the enzymes and toxins that are produced by the invader.  Antibodies also inhibit the ability of the attacker to further invade healthy cells and make them more vulnerable to be destroyed by the white blood cells.

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