Geographical restriction of Hepatitis E virus circulation in wild boars (Sus scrofa) in Emilia-Romagna region, Northern Italy
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a singlestrand RNA virus that causes an acute viral hepatitis in humans. Among its eight recognized genotypes, HEV-3 and HEV-4 are zoonotic, infecting humans, pigs and wild boars. Recently, HEV-3 has been also detected in red deer, which represents another reservoir of HEV. Consumption of raw pork products (mainly liver sausages), undercooked wild boar meat, raw wild boar liver and deer meat has been responsible for foodborne HEV human worldwide. From November 2018 to March 2019, liver samples collected from 97 wild boars hunted in Emilia-Romagna region (Northern Italy) were tested for HEV RNA. The hunting area included two territories for an extension of 33 km2, named A (about 13 km2, natural park, deciduous wood) and B (about 20 km2, cultivated fields in proximity of a river) areas. Distance between the two areas ranged between 8 to 10 km. A total of 73 wild boars were hunted in area A, and 24 in area B. HEV RNA was detected by Realtime RT–PCR in 23/73 liver samples of wild boars living in area A only (31.5% - 95% CI: 22.0-42.8%). The HEV sequences (n=13) clustered within genotype 3. The majority of positives belonged to animals < 12 months (12/25; 48%), followed by subadults (13-24 months) (7/16; 43.8%) and adults (4/32; 12.5%). This difference was found to be statistically significant (p=0.0024). In absence of pig farms, the restriction of HEV-positive animals to a well-defined territory of 13 km2 (Boschi di Carrega Regional Park) could hypothetically be related to the presence of red deer (Cervus elaphus), which lived in area A at the beginning of the hunting season. Further studies are needed to confirm or deny our hypothesis.
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