Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an enterically transmitted human pathogen. HEV infections are mainly associated with acute, self-limited, icteric hepatitis with an average mortality rate of 1%. Animal reservoirs are considered to play an important role in the maintenance of the virus and in the spread of HEV to humans. HEV-induced seroconversion was described in several species, however clinical hepatitis in animals has not been observed to date. HEV strains from animals are genetically closely related to human HEV isolates, which supports the opinions on the zoonotic transmission of the virus.In this expansive study the occurrence of HEV was investigated in Hungarian wild and domesticated animal samples. HEV RNA was detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in liver samples of wild boars, roe deer, and deer. The investigations of domestic swine samples detected HEV in 39% of the investigated Hungarian pig farms. Simultaneous investigation revealed no definite difference between liver and faeces samples of domestic pigs in the frequency of HEV positivity. The highest (36%) incidence of HEV infection was found among the 11-16-week-old pigs. Samples from domestic cattle and rodents collected in pig farms, forests and meadows were tested negative for HEV RNA.Phylogenetic analysis of partial sequences amplified within the ORF1 and ORF2 regions of selected strains revealed that the detected viruses belong to three subgroups of the third genogroup of HEV, and are closely related to human and swine HEV strains detected in different countries. The investigations revealed widespread distribution of HEV in Hungarian wild ungulate and domesticated swine populations, with considerable genetic diversity among the strains.
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