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Genetically similar hepatitis E virus strains infect both humans and wild boars in the Barcelona area, Spain, and Sweden.

Journal article
Authors Hao Wang
Raquel Castillo-Contreras
Fredy Saguti
Jorge R López-Olvera
Marie Karlsson
Gregorio Mentaberre
Magnus Lindh
Jordi Serra-Cobo
Helene Norder
Published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases
Volume 66
Issue 2
Pages 978-985
ISSN 1865-1674
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Medicine
Pages 978-985
Language en
Subject categories Virology


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a hepatotropic virus, endemic in Europe where it infects humans and animals, with domestic pigs and wild boars as main reservoirs. The number of HEV-infected cases with unknown source of infection increases in Europe. There are human HEV strains genetically similar to viruses from domestic pigs, and zoonotic transmission via consumption of uncooked pork meat has been shown. Due to continuous growth of the wild boar populations in Europe, another route may be through direct or indirect contacts with wild boars. In the Collserola Natural Park near Barcelona, Spain, the wild boars have spread into Barcelona city. In Sweden, they are entering into farmlands and villages. To investigate the prevalence of HEV and the risk for zoonotic transmissions, the presence of antibodies against HEV and HEV RNA were analysed in serum and faecal samples from 398 wild boars, 264 from Spain and 134 from Sweden and in sera from 48 Swedish patients with HEV infection without known source of infection. Anti-HEV was more commonly found in Spanish wild boars (59% vs. 8%; p < 0.0001) while HEV RNA had similar prevalence (20% in Spanish vs. 15% in Swedish wild boars). Seven Swedish and three Spanish wild boars were infected with subtype 3f, and nine Spanish with subtype 3c/i. There were three clades in the phylogenetic tree formed by strains from wild boars and domestic pigs; another four clades were formed by strains from humans and wild boars. One strain from a Spanish wild boar was similar to strains from chronically infected humans. The high prevalence of HEV infections among wild boars and the similarity between wild boar HEV strains and those from humans and domestic pigs indicate that zoonotic transmission from wild boar may be more common than previously anticipated, which may develop into public health concern.

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