Introduction. The aim of this study was to determine the seroprevalence
of anti-HEV antibodies in humans sera and to study
HEV prevalence in swine from different Sardinian farms, testing
viral HEV-RNA in bile samples.
Methods. In the first six months of 2008, 532 subjects of whom
402 blood donors and 130 workers at zoonotic risk, were
enrolled. Anti-HEV were determined with an enzyme linked
immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In positive subjects, RNA was
extracted and tested by RT-Nested-PCR.
From July 2006 to March 2007, 95 bile samples were collected
from randomly selected pigs. RNA was extracted from 250 ?l of
bile and tested by RT-Nested-PCR.
Results. The overall prevalence of anti-HEV antibodies was
4.3%; 5.0% among blood donors and 2.3% among workers at
zoonotic risk, with no statistically significant differences between
sex, age classes and occupation. The search for HEV-RNA in the
subjects positive for antibodies, gave negative results.
HEV genome was detected in 6 of the 95 swine bile samples
tested. Sequences were clustered within the genotype 3 and are
edited on GenBank under accession number: from FJ850960 to
FJ850962 and from FJ883000 to FJ883002.
Discussion. The overall prevalence of anti-HEV shows that the
virus circulates without giving origin to cases of acute hepatitis.
The low prevalence value found in workers at zoonotic risk do
not apparently support the hypothesis of professional risk. In
this study, HEV-RNA was isolated from pigs in Sardinia for the
first time confirming the role of swine as HEV reservoir and the
possibility of virus transmission to humans.