Hepatitis E Virus RNA in Commercial Porcine Livers in The Netherlands

M. Bouwknegt, F. Lodder-Verschoor, W.H.M. van der Poel, S.A. Rutjes, A.M. de Roda Husman

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157 Citations (Scopus)


Human hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections by genotype 3 strains in industrialized countries are hypothesized to be caused by pigs. To examine this hypothesis, the potential health risks of transmission routes should be examined. Possible foodborne transmission was studied by quantifying the presence and infectivity of HEV in commercial porcine livers in The Netherlands. A comparison of four tissue disruption and seven RNA extraction methods revealed that mechanical disruption followed by silica-based RNA extraction gave the highest RNA yields and was therefore employed on commercial porcine livers. Four (6.5%) of 62 porcine livers were HEV RNA positive by reverse transcriptase PCR and Southern blot hybridization. Each positive liver was estimated to contain ~65 PCR-detectable units per g. Sequences were obtained for three of four positive livers and classified as HEV genotype 3. Ninety-three percent similarity to Dutch human HEV sequences and 97% similarity to Dutch swine HEV sequences were observed. To determine whether positive livers contained infectious HEV particles, extracts from livers with known HEV RNA sequences were inoculated intravenously in pigs. Two control pigs were included: one was inoculated with a high dose known to result in infection (104 PCR-detectable units of HEV RNA), and the other was inoculated with a lower concentration of virus that equaled the concentration of PCR-detectable units in commercial livers (~20 PCR-detectable units). Infection was observed in the high-dose control, but not in other pigs, suggesting a dose-dependent response in pigs. Hence, the implications of HEV RNA in commercial porcine livers in The Netherlands are unknown. However, HEV RNA is present in commercial porcine livers, and sufficient heating of porcine livers before consumption as precautionary measure is recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2889-2895
JournalJournal of Food Protection
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • cross-species infection
  • united-states
  • phylogenetic analysis
  • genetic diversity
  • wild boar
  • swine
  • transmission
  • prevalence
  • sequences
  • japan

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