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, 7 (3), 195-205

Distribution and Molecular Characterization of Hepatitis E Virus in Domestic Animals and Wildlife in Croatia

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Distribution and Molecular Characterization of Hepatitis E Virus in Domestic Animals and Wildlife in Croatia

Jelena Prpić et al. Food Environ Virol.

Abstract

Hepatitis E is becoming a growing health concern in European countries as an increase of sporadic human cases of unknown origin has been recorded lately. Its causative agent, Hepatitis E virus (HEV), is known to have zoonotic potential and thus the role of domestic and wild animals in the chain of viral spread should be considered when investigating risk factors and the epidemiology of the disease. A comprehensive survey based on viral RNA detection was carried out in Croatia including blood, spleen and liver samples originating from 1816 different domestic and wild animals and digestive gland samples from 538 molluscs. A high HEV prevalence was detected in domestic pigs (24.5%) and wild boars (12.3%), whereas cattle, molluscs, ruminant and carnivore wildlife samples tested negative. Molecular characterization of both ORF1 and ORF2 genomic regions confirmed the phylogenetic clustering of the obtained sequences into genotype 3, previously reported in Europe. Furthermore, our results proved the presence of identical sequence variants in different samples, regardless of their origin, age or habitat of the host, suggesting transmission events between domestic swine, as well as between domestic swine and wild boars in the country. Moreover, a close genetic relationship of Croatian animal strains and known human HEV strains from GenBank opens the question of possible cross-species HEV transmission in Croatia, especially in the areas with an intensive swine production.

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