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