, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 87-96
Date: 15 Sep 2012

Frequent detection and characterization of hepatitis E virus variants in wild rats (Rattus rattus ) in Indonesia

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One hundred sixteen rats (Rattus rattus) captured in Indonesia from 2011 to 2012 were investigated for the prevalence of hepatitis E virus (HEV)-specific antibodies and HEV RNA. Using an ELISA based on HEV genotype 4 with an ad hoc cutoff value of 0.500, 18.1 % of the rats tested positive for anti-HEV IgG. By nested RT-PCR, 14.7 % of the rats had rat HEV RNA, and none were positive for HEV genotype 1-4. A high HEV prevalence among rats was associated with lower sanitary conditions in areas with a high population density. Sixteen of the 17 HEV isolates obtained from infected rats showed >93.0 % nucleotide sequence identity within the 840-nucleotide ORF1-ORF2 sequence and were most closely related to a Vietnamese strain (85.9-87.9 % identity), while the remaining isolate differed from known rat HEV strains by 18.8-23.3 % and may belong to a novel lineage of rat HEV. These results suggest a wide distribution of rat HEV with divergent genomes.