Swine and rabbits are the main reservoirs of hepatitis E virus in China: detection of HEV RNA in feces of farmed and wild animals

Arch Virol. 2015 Nov;160(11):2791-8. doi: 10.1007/s00705-015-2574-0. Epub 2015 Aug 26.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is recognized as a zoonosis. The prevalence of HEV RNA and anti-HEV antibodies in many animal species has been reported, but the host range of HEV is unclear. The aims of this study were to investigate HEV infection in various animal species and to determine the reservoirs of HEV. Eight hundred twenty-two fecal samples from 17 mammal species and 67 fecal samples from 24 avian species were collected in China and tested for HEV RNA by RT-nPCR. The products of PCR were sequenced and analyzed phylogenetically. The positive rates of HEV RNA isolated from pigs in Beijing, Shandong, and Henan were 33%, 30%, and 92%, respectively, and that from rabbits in Beijing was 5%. HEV RNA was not detectable in farmed foxes, sheep or sika deer, or in wild animals in zoos, including wild boars, yaks, camels, Asiatic black bears, African lions, red pandas, civets, wolves, jackals and primates. Sequence analysis revealed that swine isolates had 97.8%-98.4% nucleotide sequence identity to genotype 4d isolates from patients in Shandong and Jiangsu of China. Phylogenetic analysis showed that swine HEV isolates belong to genotype 4, including subgenotype 4h in Henan and 4d in Beijing and Shandong. The rabbit HEV strains shared 93%-99% nucleotide sequence identity with rabbit strains isolated from Inner Mongolia. In conclusion, swine and rabbits have been confirmed to be the main reservoirs of HEV in China.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / classification
  • Animals, Wild / virology*
  • China
  • Disease Reservoirs / classification
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary*
  • Disease Reservoirs / virology
  • Feces / virology*
  • Hepatitis E virus / classification
  • Hepatitis E virus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis E virus / isolation & purification
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Rabbits / virology*
  • Swine / virology*


  • RNA, Viral

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KP284140
  • GENBANK/KP284141
  • GENBANK/KP284142
  • GENBANK/KP284143
  • GENBANK/KP284144
  • GENBANK/KP284145
  • GENBANK/KP284146
  • GENBANK/KP284147
  • GENBANK/KP317590
  • GENBANK/KP317591
  • GENBANK/KP329559
  • GENBANK/KP329560
  • GENBANK/KP663375
  • GENBANK/KP663376
  • GENBANK/KP663377
  • GENBANK/KP663378