Molecular Investigation on the Presence of Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) in Wild Game in North-Western Italy.Food Environ Virol. 2015 Sep; 7(3):206-12.FE
Meat products from HEV-infected reservoir animal species are capable of transmitting HEV to humans and represent a public health concern. Human HEV cases have been linked to the consumption of raw or undercooked pig liver sausages, pork, and game meats, such as wild boars and deer worldwide. Direct exposure to swine or wild game species might also represent a source of HEV transmission especially for veterinarians, hunters, or butchers. A limited amount of data is available on HEV prevalence in wild boars in Italy and no data are available for other wild game species intended for human consumption. In this study, the circulation of HEV in four different animal species hunted in north-western Italy was evaluated to gain insight into the infection levels and the genetic diversity of the virus in such animal populations. Liver samples of 372 wild boars, 30 roe deer, 47 European hares and 38 coypus were analyzed for HEV RNA by real-time RT-PCR; positive samples were then sequenced and submitted to phylogenetic analysis. HEV RNA was detected in the livers of 7/372 (1.9%) wild boars tested, while no sample was positive for roe deer, European hare, and coypu. Phylogenetic analysis showed that wild boar HEV sequences belonged to HEV subtypes 3e, 3c, and 3f. Our results indicate that HEV is circulating only in wild boar among the considered game species in north-western Italy and suggest a potential zoonotic risk related to handling and/or consumption of raw or undercooked meat and products made of the liver from this species.