Screening and Molecular Characterization of Hepatitis E Virus in Slaughter Pigs in Serbia
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a zoonotic virus that can cause acute hepatitis in humans. Besides the fecal–oral route, transmission can occur by consumption of undercooked pig liver. Genotype 3 is the most frequent genotype found in Europe. Studies on HEV in slaughter-age pigs have not been conducted in Serbia so far. Pork meat production and consumption in Serbia is on average, higher than in the rest of Europe. With the aim to identify the circulating HEV genotypes, pig livers and swab samples from three pig slaughterhouses located in three different sub-regions of Serbia were collected. A nested RT-PCR was used to amplify the hypervariable HEV ORF-1 region (334 bp). The amplicons yielded in this study were sequenced, and a molecular phylogeny analysis based on the maximum likelihood method, including HEV sequences reported in several other countries, was performed. The average prevalence of HEV genotype 3 in 3-month-old pigs was 34%. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the majority of HEV amplification fragments from Serbia were grouped in four clades within sub-genotype 3a and were also genetically related to German, Italian, Slovenian, and American HEV sequences. Sub-genotypes 3b and 3j were also found in a single pig each. This study provides the first analysis of the genetic diversity and circulation dynamics of HEV in pigs at slaughterhouses in Serbia.
KeywordsHepatitis E virus Slaughterhouse Pigs Serbia
This research was supported by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Grant No. III 46009.
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