Primary and secondary experimental infestation of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) with Sarcoptes scabiei from a wild rabbit: Factors determining resistance to reinfestation

Rosa Casais, Kevin P. Dalton, Javier Millán, Ana Balseiro, Álvaro Oleaga, Paloma Solano, Félix Goyache, José Miguel Prieto, Francisco Parra

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of sarcoptic mange and immunity are hampered by lack of mite sources and natural infestation models. We have investigated the clinical and pathological signs, specific IgG response and acquired immunity in naïve New Zealand White rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) experimentally infested with Sarcoptes scabiei originally isolated from a clinically affected free-living European wild rabbit. Twenty rabbits were infested using two methods, direct contact for a 24. h period with a seeder rabbit simulating the natural process of infestation and application of a dressing holding approximately 1800 live mites on each hind limb (foot area) for a 24. h period. Eight weeks post infestation, rabbits were treated with ivermectin and infestation cleared. Eight weeks later seventeen previously infested and four uninfested naïve controls were then re-exposed to the same S. scabiei variety using the same methods and followed for another 8 weeks. The progress of the disease was markedly more virulent in the animals infested by contact, indicating that the effective dose of mites managing to thrive and infest each rabbit by this method was higher. Nevertheless, infestation by contact resulted in partial protection to reexposure, rabbits developed high non-protective antibody titres upon reinfestation and presented severe clinical signs. However, rabbits reinfested by dressing developed lower IgG titres, and presented high levels of resistance to reinfestation, which might be due to induction of a strong local cellular response in the inoculation point that killed the mites and resulted in a lower mite effective dose, with subsequent reduced lesion development. Statistical analysis showed that sex, method of infestation and previous exposure are key factors determining the ability of rabbits to develop immunity to this disease. The rabbit-mange model developed will allow the further study of immunity and resistance to this neglected pathogen using a natural host system. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-183
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Experimental infestation
  • Immune response
  • Protection
  • Rabbit
  • Route of infestation
  • Sarcoptes scabiei


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