Prevalence of hepatitis E virus-specific antibodies in humans with occupational exposure to pigs

Med Microbiol Immunol. 2012 May;201(2):239-44. doi: 10.1007/s00430-011-0210-5. Epub 2011 Jul 20.


Due to the increasing number of non-travel-associated hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections observed in several industrialised countries including Germany, there is a substantial interest in the characterisation of risk factors and transmission routes relevant to autochthonous HEV infections. Autochthonous cases are believed to be the result of a zoonotic HEV transmission from pigs, wild boars and deer. Recently, a high prevalence of HEV-specific antibodies in the German domestic pig population has been demonstrated. Thus, one may assume a higher prevalence of HEV-specific antibodies in humans with occupational exposure to pigs. In this study, sera obtained from 24 slaughterers, 14 meat inspectors, 46 pig farmers and 22 veterinarians were tested for the presence of HEV-specific antibodies using a line immunoassay. For comparison, sera obtained from 116 age- and gender-matched blood donors were also included. Twenty eight per cent (28.3%; 30/106) of the swine-exposed humans and 15.5% (18/116) of the blood donors without contact to pigs exhibited IgG-antibodies determined as reactive (i.e. borderline or positive) against HEV. Thus, an increased risk of HEV infection in humans occupationally exposed to pigs and particularly for slaughterers (41.7%; 10/24) was demonstrated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animals
  • Blood Donors
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis Antibodies / blood*
  • Hepatitis E / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sus scrofa


  • Hepatitis Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin G