Prevalence of antibodies to the hepatitis E virus in pigs from countries where hepatitis E is common or is rare in the human population.J Med Virol. 1999 Nov; 59(3):297-302.JM
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a very important public health concern in many developing countries where epidemics of hepatitis E are common. Sporadic cases of clinical hepatitis E not only occur in these countries but also occur uncommonly in patients with no known epidemiological exposure to HEV in industrialized countries. The source of infection in industrialized countries is unknown but it has been suggested that animals might serve as a reservoir for HEV in both settings. We recently identified and characterized an HEV strain (swine HEV) that infects large numbers of pigs in the United States. To assess the potential of pigs to serve as a global reservoir of HEV, we measured the prevalence of HEV antibodies in pigs in two countries where hepatitis E is endemic and two countries where it is not. Swine herds in all four countries contained many pigs that were seropositive for IgG anti-HEV, although the percentage of seropositive pigs varied greatly from herd to herd. A very limited number of pig handlers in the two endemic countries were also tested and most of them were found to be seropositive for HEV. The results from this study suggest that hepatitis E is enzootic in pigs regardless of whether HEV is endemic in the respective human population. J. Med. Virol. 59:297-302, 1999. Published 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.