Going for the kill

Published: Tuesday 15 October 1996

-- the controversial rabbit calicivirus will be let loose on purpose in Australia, end of September, to decimate the rabbit population which has caused havoc in the island continent. Amidst fears that the virus could jump species, the Australian government announced that the virus would be released once the approval of all the Australian states and territories and the New Zealand government is received.

Two us scientists have cautioned against the move. Alvin Smith of Oregon State University and David Matson of the Centre for Paediatric Research in Virginia state that other caliciviruses have jumped species and the rabbit calicivirus would be no different and would especially be a threat once it gets mutated.

Australian virologists contend that these fears are baseless. They had injected large doses of the virus into other native Australian species -- koala, echidna and wombat -- and their tests reveal that the virus did not affect them. The plan is to release 20 rabbits injected with lethal doses of the virus across Australia to ensure that the virus has a maximum impact on the rabbit population.

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