The objective of the present study was to determine the pattern of Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection in a naturally infected, farrow-to-finish herd. For that purpose, a prospective study was conducted in randomly selected 19 sows and 45 piglets. Blood samples were collected from sows at 1 week post-farrowing and from piglets at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 22 weeks of age. Furthermore 3 or 5 animals were necropsied at each bleeding day (but at 1 week of age), and serum, bile, liver, mesenteric lymph nodes and faeces taken. HEV IgG, IgM and IgA antibodies were determined in serum and viral RNA was analysed in all collected samples by semi-nested RT-PCR. Histopathological examination of mesenteric lymph nodes and liver was also conducted. From 13 analysed sows, 10 (76.9%) were positive to IgG, one to IgA (7.7%) and two to IgM (15.4%) antibodies specific to HEV. In piglets, IgG and IgA maternal antibodies lasted until 9 and 3 weeks of age, respectively. IgG seroconversion occurred by 15 weeks of age while IgM and IgA at 12. On individual basis, IgG was detectable until the end of the study while IgM and IgA antibody duration was of 4-7 weeks. HEV RNA was detected in serum at all analysed ages with the highest prevalence at 15 weeks of age. HEV was detected in faeces and lymph nodes for the first time at 9 weeks of age and peaked at 12 and 15 weeks of age. This peak coincided with the occurrence of hepatitis as well as with HEV detection in bile, liver, mesenteric lymph nodes and faeces, and also with highest IgG and IgM OD values at 15 weeks. Finally, different HEV sequences from this farm were obtained, which they clustered within 3 different groups, together with other Spanish sequences, all of them of genotype 3. Moreover, the present study also indicates that the same pig can be infected with at least two different strains of HEV during its productive life. This is the first study characterizing HEV infection in naturally infected pigs with chronological virus detection and its relationship with tissue lesions throughout the productive life of the animals. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Longitudinal study
- Phylogenetic analyses