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Wildlife Reservoir for Hepatitis E Virus, Southwestern France - Volume 21, Number 7—July 2015 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

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Wildlife Reservoir for Hepatitis E Virus, Southwestern France - Volume 21, Number 7—July 2015 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

Volume 21, Number 7—July 2015


Wildlife Reservoir for Hepatitis E Virus, Southwestern France

Sebastien Lhomme, Sokunthea Top, Stephane Bertagnoli, Martine Dubois, Jean-Luc Guerin, and Jacques IzopetComments to Author 
Author affiliations: Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Toulouse, France (S. Lhomme, S. Top, M. Dubois, J. Izopet)Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse (S. Lhomme, S. Top, M. Dubois, J. Izopet)Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Purpan, Toulouse (S. Lhomme, M. Dubois, J. Izopet)Institut National Polytechnique, Toulouse (S. Bertagnoli, J.-L. Guerin)Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Toulouse (S. Bertagnoli, J.-L. Guerin)


Pigs are a reservoir for hepatitis E virus (HEV). To determine the relative contribution of game to the risk for human HEV infection in southwestern France, we tested wildlife samples. HEV RNA was in 3.3% of wildlife livers, indicating that in this region, eating game meat is as risky as eating pork.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a causative agent of acute hepatitis worldwide. According to the Ninth Report of the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (http://ictvonline.org/), HEV is the sole member of the genus Hepevirus in the family Hepeviridae. HEV is a nonenveloped, single-stranded, positive-sense RNA virus containing ≈7.2 kb. Its genome contains 3 open reading frames (ORFs)—ORF1, ORF2, and ORF3—which encode nonstructural proteins, the capsid protein, and a small protein involved in virus egress, respectively (1).
Phylogenetic analysis of HEV sequences has led to the identification of 4 major genotypes (1). Genotypes 1 (HEV1) and 2 (HEV2) are pathogenic to humans only. HEV1 is present mainly in Asia and Africa, and HEV2 is in Africa and Mexico. In developing countries, HEV1 and HEV2 transmission is waterborne because of inadequate sanitary conditions. Genotypes 3 (HEV3) and 4 (HEV4) infect not only humans but also pigs, wild boars, deer, and other mammals. HEV3 is widespread, but HEV4 occurs mainly in Asia and was recently introduced into Europe (1). Pigs are a major reservoir of HEV3 and HEV4 (2); however, in recent years, the host range of HEV has expanded substantially (3).
HEV is hyperendemic to the Midi-Pyrénées area of southwestern France; annual incidence of cases among humans is 3.2% (4), and seroprevalence among blood donors has reached 52.5% (5). A multivariate analysis reported that the only factor associated with autochthonous HEV infection in this region was the consumption of game meat (6). However, the prevalence of HEV RNA in wildlife, especially wild boars and deer, has yet to be explored. Identifying the most commonly infected animals (sources of transmission) could help prevent zoonotic foodborne transmission. HEV strains have been recently identified in rabbits (7). Because HEV strains in rats have been recently described (8), we questioned the capacity of coypu to act as an HEV reservoir. Coypu are large, herbivorous, semiaquatic rodents that usually live in fresh or brackish water. In this study, we assessed the prevalence of HEV RNA among wild boars (Sus scrofa), deer (Cervus elaphus), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and coypu (Myocastor coypus) and, thus, the potential for these animals to act as sources of HEV infection for persons living in the Midi-Pyrénées area.
Dr. Lhomme is a researcher in the Virology Department at Toulouse University Hospital. His main research interest is the genetic variability of HEV.


We thank Owen Parkes for editing the English text.
This work was supported by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U1043.


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Suggested citation for this article: Lhomme S, Top S, Bertagnoli S, Dubois M, Guerin JL, Izopet J. Wildlife reservoir for hepatitis E virus, southwestern France. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Jul [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2107.141909
DOI: 10.3201/eid2107.141909

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