High genomic similarity between European type hepatitis E virus subgenotype 3e strains isolated from an acute hepatitis patient and a wild boar in Mie, Japan

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A 67-year-old male living in Tsu city, Mie prefecture, Japan was referred to our hospital for further examination of acute liver injury and was diagnosed as having clinical hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection in January 2010. The HEV strain (HE-JA11-1701) isolated from the patient belonged to genotype 3 and European-type subgenotype 3e. It was presumed that the patient had been infected from a wild boar (Sus scrofa leucomystax) because he consumed meat/viscera from a wild boar that he had captured himself as a hunter approximately 2 months before disease onset. A specimen of the boar meat/viscera that the patient had ingested was not available. However, the HE-JA11-1701 strain was 99.8% identical within the 412-nucleotide sequence of the open reading frame 2 region to a HEV strain (JBOAR012-Mie08) that had been recovered from a wild boar captured near the patient's hunting area in 2008. A phylogenetic analysis confirmed that the two HEV strains had a close genetic relationship and were segregated into subgenotype 3e, supported by a high bootstrap value of 99%. Of note, the HE-JA11-1701 and JBOAR012-Mie08 strains were remotely related to the 3e strains reported in Japan and European countries, with a nucleotide difference of 7.9–13.9%, reinforcing the uniqueness of the 3e strains obtained in the present study. These results strongly support our speculation that the patient developed acute hepatitis E via consumption of HEV-infected boar meat/viscera. Genetic analyses of HEV strains are useful for tracing infectious sources in sporadic cases of acute hepatitis E.

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