Routes of Transmission of Swine Hepatitis E Virus in Pigs

J Clin Microbiol. 2004 Nov;42(11):5047-52. doi: 10.1128/JCM.42.11.5047-5052.2004.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is believed to be transmitted by the fecal-oral route in pigs. To date, in experiments, HEV has been transmitted successfully only by the intravenous or intrahepatic route. To assess the route of HEV transmission, 27 pigs were separated into nine groups of three pigs. Positive-control pigs were inoculated intravenously with swine HEV and served as the source of HEV for the other groups. Uninoculated contact pigs were placed in the positive-control group. On three consecutive days, naive pigs were inoculated using samples collected from the positive-control pigs at 9, 10, and 11 days postinoculation. The tonsils and nasal mucosa of each positive-control pig were swabbed and that swab was used to rub the tonsils and nasal and ocular mucosa of naive pigs. The positive-control pigs were also injected with bacterin, and the same needle was used to immediately inject naive pigs. Feces were collected from positive controls and fed by oral gavage to naive pigs. Weekly fecal and serum samples from each pig were tested for anti-HEV antibodies and HEV RNA. All positive-control pigs shed the virus in feces; two pigs were viremic and seroconverted to anti-HEV. All contact control pigs shed the virus in feces; two seroconverted and one became viremic. One of three pigs in the fecal-oral exposure group shed the virus in feces and seroconverted. Pigs exposed to the contaminated needles or the tonsil and nasal secretion swabs remained negative. This is the first report of experimental fecal-oral transmission of HEV in swine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feces / virology
  • Hepatitis Antibodies / blood
  • Hepatitis E / veterinary*
  • Hepatitis E / virology
  • Hepatitis E virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis E virus / isolation & purification
  • Hepatitis E virus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Animal / transmission*
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Animal / virology
  • Mouth / virology
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Swine
  • Swine Diseases / transmission*
  • Swine Diseases / virology


  • Hepatitis Antibodies
  • RNA, Viral