Detection of Hepatitis E Virus in Livers and Muscle Tissues of Wild Boars in Italy

  • Luca De Sabato
  • Maria Grazia Amoroso
  • Giovanni Ianiro
  • Claudia Esposito
  • Luigi De Grossi
  • Giovanna Fusco
  • Antonino Barone
  • Enrica Martini
  • Fabio Ostanello
  • Ilaria Di BartoloEmail author
Original Paper


In industrialized countries, hepatitis E is now recognized as an emerging zoonosis. Autochthonous cases have been increased over recent years in Europe and are mainly associated with HEV-3 infections. Pigs and wild boars are considered the main reservoirs of the zoonotic HEV-3 and HEV-4 genotypes. Over the past decade, the number of wild boars has drastically increased in Europe. Due to habitats closer to humans and domestic animals, the role of wild boar as a reservoir of the zoonotic HEV is considered to be an emerging issue. In this study, we investigated the presence of HEV RNA by a real-time RT-PCR assay in paired liver and muscle samples collected from 196 wild boars (Sus scrofa) hunted in the two areas of Central and Southern Italy. Twenty animals (10.2%) were HEV RNA positive in livers, 11 of which were also positive in muscles. The ORF2 and ORF1 partial viral sequences were obtained for nine paired livers and muscles, and when aligned were identical to each other. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed detection of different HEV-3 subtypes: 3c, 3f, 3i and some that were not assigned to any subtypes that have so far been identified. Results need further investigation because they are based on analyses of sequences of short genome regions. Nevertheless, we observed that the same strains were circulating in the wild boar populations from the two investigated areas, confirming persistence of the same HEV strains in the wild boar population over time.


HEV Hepatitis E Wild boar Muscles Liver Subtype 



We would like to acknowledge Edoardo Vignolo and Alessandra Dominicis for their valuable support. This work was partially supported by the Grant RF-2016–02361926 “Controlling zoonotic virus contamination of pork products through defining virus ecology in agricultural and farming environment” financed by the Italian Ministry of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luca De Sabato
    • 1
  • Maria Grazia Amoroso
    • 2
  • Giovanni Ianiro
    • 1
  • Claudia Esposito
    • 2
  • Luigi De Grossi
    • 3
  • Giovanna Fusco
    • 2
  • Antonino Barone
    • 3
  • Enrica Martini
    • 4
  • Fabio Ostanello
    • 5
  • Ilaria Di Bartolo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Food Safety, Nutrition and Veterinary Public HealthIstituto Superiore Di SanitàRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Animal HealthExperimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Southern ItalyPorticiItaly
  3. 3.Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Latium and Tuscany “M. Aleandri”ViterboItaly
  4. 4.ASL ViterboViterboItaly
  5. 5.Department of Veterinary Medical SciencesUniversity of BolognaOzzano dell’EmiliaItaly

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