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Serological evidence for swine hepatitis E virus infection in Australian pig herds.

Chandler JD, Riddell MA, Li F, Love RJ, Anderson DA

  • Journal Veterinary microbiology

  • Published 10 Nov 1999

  • Volume 68

  • ISSUE 1-2

  • Pagination 95-105

  • DOI 10.1016/s0378-1135(99)00065-6


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an enterically transmitted human pathogen, with some similarities to caliciviruses. A variant of HEV was recently identified in pigs in the USA, infecting almost 100% of animals in commercial herds. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that this is a true 'swine HEV' distinct from the human virus, but the swine virus may also infect man. Using an in-house ELISA based on a highly conserved, recombinant HEV protein, we have examined collections of sera from Australian pigs for evidence of HEV infection in local pig herds. Sera from one research herd (n = 32) were uniformly non-reactive, and this was used to establish an assay cut-off (= mean + 3 SD of reference pig serum reactivities). Screening of sera from other herds demonstrates that swine HEV is present in Australia, with reactivity observed in 30% (12/40) of random samples from two piggeries, 92-95% of pigs by the age of 16 weeks in two other piggeries (n = 45), and 17% (15/59) of wild-caught pigs. Further studies are required to examine whether HEV causes disease in pigs and to determine the risk of swine HEV transmission to man.