Indexed on: 11 Aug '11Published on: 11 Aug '11Published in: PloS one
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotypes 3 and 4 are a cause of human hepatitis and swine are considered the main reservoir. To study the HEV prevalence and characterize circulating HEV strains, fecal samples from swine in the Netherlands and Belgium were tested by RT-PCR. HEV prevalence in swine was 7-15%. The Dutch strains were characterized as genotype 3, subgroups 3a, 3c and 3f, closely related to sequences found in humans and swine earlier. The HEV strains found in Belgium belonged to genotypes 3f and 4b. The HEV genotype 4 strain was the first ever reported in swine in Europe and an experimental infection in pigs was performed to isolate the virus. The genotype 4 strain readily infected piglets and caused fever and virus shedding. Since HEV4 infections have been reported to run a more severe clinical course in humans this observation may have public health implications.