Hepatitis E is a zoonotic disease and is highly prevalent in European swine livestock. There is a need to compare the infection dynamics of hepatitis E virus (HEV) between herds with the same production system and determine the percentage of animals that could arrive infected at slaughter age. Therefore, a longitudinal study was performed in six Spanish farrow-to-finish affected farms. Twenty piglets per farm were monitored from nursery to slaughter. RT-PCR and serology techniques were applied to analyze longitudinally collected sera and/or faecal samples. Liver and bile samples were also taken at the abattoir. Anti-HEV IgM were firstly detected at 7 weeks of age in 5 farms whereas at 13 weeks of age in 1 farm (farm 2). At slaughter age 50-100% of pigs had seroconverted to anti-HEV IgG in the former 5 farms whereas in the other herd only 5% of pigs were IgG seropositive (farm 2). Six out of 96 livers and 5 out of 80 biles analyzed were HEV positive at the abattoir (total percentage of infected animals: 11.5%). All these positive animals had already seroconverted except 2 pigs of farm 2. Hence, pigs can be seronegative at slaughter age being infected during the latest fattening period. Manipulation of HEV-infected livers or other organs from pigs could be considered a possible route of transmission in Spanish abattoirs. This study represents the first longitudinal survey on swine HEV infection dynamics conducted in different herds. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
- Longitudinal study