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Hepatitis E virus in sheep in Italy

Sarchese, Vittorio, Di Profio, Federica, Melegari, Irene, Palombieri, Andrea, Sanchez, Sandra Bermudez, Arbuatti, Alessio, Ciuffetelli, Massimo, Marsilio, Fulvio, Martella, Vito, Di Martino, Barbara
Transboundary and emerging diseases 2019 v.66 no.3 pp. 1120-1125
screening, Orthohepevirus A, sequence analysis, zoonoses, blood serum, antibodies, sheep, emerging diseases, farms, goats, viral hepatitis, swine, wild boars, genes, genotype, RNA, developed countries, disease incidence, Italy
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the leading cause of human enterically transmitted viral hepatitis occurring around the world both as outbreaks and as sporadic cases. The accumulating literature indicates that domestic pigs and wild boars are the main reservoirs of genotype 3 and genotype 4 for human infections in industrialized countries. However, the recent identification of HEV from various animal species poses additional potential concerns for HEV zoonotic infection. In this study, the role of sheep as potential host of hepatitis E virus (HEV) was investigated. By screening 192 sheep from seven farms located in Abruzzo Region (Southern Italy), HEV‐specific antibodies were detected in the sera of 41 animals (21.3%) whilst the RNA of HEV, genotype 3, was detected in 20 faecal (10.4%) and three serum samples (1.6%). Upon sequence analyses of a partial ORF2 gene region of eight HEV positive samples, the sheep sequences all grouped together within HEV genotype 3 subtype c, being most closely related to HEV strains identified in goat and wild boar from Abruzzo. This is the first study that demonstrates, serologically and molecularly, the presence of HEV in sheep population in a European country.