Hepatitis E virus: animal reservoirs and zoonotic risk.Vet Microbiol. 2010 Jan 27; 140(3-4):256-65.VM
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a small, non-enveloped, single-strand, positive-sense RNA virus of approximately 7.2kb in size. HEV is classified in the family Hepeviridae consisting of four recognized major genotypes that infect humans and other animals. Genotypes 1 and 2 HEV are restricted to humans and often associated with large outbreaks and epidemics in developing countries with poor sanitation conditions, whereas genotypes 3 and 4 HEV infect humans, pigs and other animal species and are responsible for sporadic cases of hepatitis E in both developing and industrialized countries. The avian HEV associated with Hepatitis-Splenomegaly syndrome in chickens is genetically and antigenically related to mammalian HEV, and likely represents a new genus in the family. There exist three open reading frames in HEV genome: ORF1 encodes non-structural proteins, ORF2 encodes the capsid protein, and the ORF3 encodes a small phosphoprotein. ORF2 and ORF3 are translated from a single bicistronic mRNA, and overlap each other but neither overlaps ORF1. Due to the lack of an efficient cell culture system and a practical animal model for HEV, the mechanisms of HEV replication and pathogenesis are poorly understood. The recent identification and characterization of animal strains of HEV from pigs and chickens and the demonstrated ability of cross-species infection by these animal strains raise potential public health concerns for zoonotic HEV transmission. It has been shown that the genotypes 3 and 4 HEV strains from pigs can infect humans, and vice versa. Accumulating evidence indicated that hepatitis E is a zoonotic disease, and swine and perhaps other animal species are reservoirs for HEV. A vaccine against HEV is not yet available.