The objectives of the present study were to establish the presence of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in New Zealand pigs, first by testing for HEV antibody in pig herds throughout New Zealand to measure the herd prevalence, then by attempting to amplify HEV genomic sequences by PCR. Antibody was measured by two independently designed ELISA serology tests. HEV RNA fragments were amplified by RT-PCR of nucleic acid extracted from faeces of 10-12-week-old piglets using primers targeting ORF1, ORF2, and ORF2/3. PCR products were subject to phylogenetic analysis. Antibody to HEV was found throughout New Zealand pig herds as well as in the different age groups within the herds. Twenty herds from 22 tested were positive for HEV antibody (91% herd prevalence). Phylogenetic analysis of the amplified sequences placed this New Zealand strain of HEV closest to the human European strain It-1 (AF 110390) and U.S. swine strain (AF 082843) with 88% and 83% similarity respectively in ORF1. It was concluded that HEV is widely distributed in the New Zealand pig population. Phylogenetic analysis shows that this is a new HEV strain, grouping most closely with the United States/European cluster, which includes HEV strains of both human and swine origin.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.