[en] epizootic rabbit enteropathy ; Oryctolagus cuniculus ; electron microscopy
[en] Epizootic rabbit enteropathy is an emerging disease that has appeared in French intensive enclosed rabbit farms since the beginning of 1997. Common clinical signs are mild watery diarrhoea with considerable distension of the abdomen. At necropsy, a significant dilation of the stomach and small intestine without gross evidence of acute or chronic enteric lesions (inflammation or congestion) was observed. The purpose of this study was to describe the anatomopathologic changes concerning the small intestine and those concerning the blood profile, in experimentally infected rabbits. In a first part of the experiment, thirty animals were inoculated with a reference inoculum and five were kept as controls for clinical signs examination and histopathological study. In a second part, 17 out of the inoculated rabbits and the 5 controls animals were randomly assigned to blood testing. Microscopic lesions were studied in sections from the different parts of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum and ileum) by light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The histological findings revealed only limited inflammation in inoculated animals. Major villous changes were atrophy, fusion, destruction and loss of epithelial cells. In inoculated rabbits, the congestion and dilation of blood vessels of jejunal lamina propria were significantly higher than in control animals (P<0.005). There was significantly more (P<0.05) apoptosis of cells of the jejunal epithelium in inoculated rabbits than in control animals. Infiltration of polymorphonuclear neutrophiles was observed into the jejunal or ileal tunica muscularis. SEM performed on the intestinal tract of 15 inoculated rabbits revealed blankets and globular particles of mucus associated with numerous bacteria on jejunum and ileum villi. This was; not observed in the intestinal tract of control rabbits. Bacteria were found adhering to the epithelial surface and inside intestinal epithelial cells in a few animals by TEM and by light microscopy after Warthin-Starry staining. None of the bacteria isolated from the intestinal mixed contents and cultivated on usual media, are commonly known as rabbit's pathogens. Regarding the haernatological profile, neutrophil counts significantly increased (P<0.05) and lymphocyte counts significantly decreased (P<0.01), in inoculated rabbits compared to those of the control group.