Transmission of a Novel Genotype of Hepatitis E Virus from Bactrian Camels to Cynomolgus Macaques.J Virol. 2019 04 01; 93(7)JV
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is zoonotic and a major cause of acute viral hepatitis worldwide. Recently, we identified a novel HEV genotype 8 (HEV8) in Bactrian camels in Xinjiang, China. However, the epidemiology, pathogenicity, and zoonotic potential of HEV8 are unclear. Here, we present the prevalence of HEV8 in China and investigate its pathogenicity and cross-species transmission in cynomolgus macaques. Fresh fecal and milk samples from Bactrian camels collected from four provinces/regions in China were screened for HEV RNA by reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR). An HEV8-positive sample was used to inoculate two cynomolgus macaques to examine the potential for cross-species infection. The pathogenicity of HEV8 was analyzed by testing HEV markers and liver function during the study period and histopathology of liver biopsy specimens at 3, 13, and 25 weeks postinoculation. Extrahepatic replication was tested by using reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and immunofluorescence assays. The overall prevalence of HEV8 RNA in Chinese Bactrian camels was 1.4% (4/295), and positive samples were found in three different provinces/regions in China. Histopathology confirmed acute and chronic HEV8 infections in the two monkeys. Multiple tissues were positive for HEV RNA and ORF2 proteins. Renal pathology was observed in the monkey with chronic hepatitis. Whole-genome sequencing showed only 1 to 3 mutations in the HEV8 in the fecal samples from the two monkeys compared to that from the camel. HEV8 is circulating in multiple regions in China. Infection of two monkeys with HEV8 induced chronic and systemic infections, demonstrating the high potential zoonotic risk of HEV8.IMPORTANCE It is estimated that one-third of the world population have been exposed to hepatitis E virus (HEV). In developed countries and China, zoonotic HEV strains are responsible for almost all acute and chronic HEV infection cases. It is always of immediate interest to investigate the zoonotic potential of novel HEV strains. In 2016, we discovered a novel HEV genotype, HEV8, in Bactrian camels, but the epidemiology, zoonotic potential, and pathogenicity of the virus were unknown. In the present study, we demonstrated that HEV8 was circulating in multiple regions in China and was capable of infecting cynomolgus macaques, a surrogate for humans, posing high risk of zoonosis. Chronic hepatitis, systemic infection, and renal pathology were observed. Collectively, these data indicate that HEV8 exhibits a high potential for zoonotic transmission. Considering the importance of Bactrian camels as livestock animals, risk groups, such as camelid meat and milk consumers, should be screened for HEV8 infection.