Hepatitis E Virus Transmitted in Urine and Meat

THE NETHERLANDS - From studying hepatitis E infection in pigs after contact-infection and intravenous inoculation, Martijn Bouwknegt from National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and co-workers concluded that the virus can be transmitted to other pigs and humans in meat and urine, as well as the accepted faecal route.
calendar icon 8 April 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Worldwide, hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotype 3 is observed in pigs and transmission to humans is implied. To be able to assess public health risks from, for example contact with pigs or consumption of pork products, the transmission routes and dynamics of infection must be identified. Hence, the researchers studied the course of HEV-infection in naturally infected pigs.

To resemble natural transmission, 24 HEV-susceptible pigs were infected either by one-to-one exposure to intravenously inoculated pigs (C1-pigs; n=10), by one-to-one exposure to contact-infected pigs (C2-pigs: n=7; C3-pigs: n=5) or due to an unknown non-intravenous infection route (one C2-pig and one C3-pig).

The course of HEV-infection for contact-infected pigs was characterized by:

  • faecal HEV RNA excretion that started at day 7 (95 per cent confidence interval: 5–10) post exposure and lasted 23 (19–28) days
  • viraemia that started after 13 (8–17) days of faecal HEV RNA excretion and lasted 11 (8–13) days, and
  • antibody development that was detected after 13 (10–16) days of faecal HEV RNA excretion.

The time until onset of faecal HEV RNA excretion and onset of viremia was significantly shorter for intravenously inoculated pigs compared to contact-infected pigs, whereas the duration of faecal HEV RNA excretion was significantly longer. At 28 days post- infection, HEV RNA was detected less frequently in organs of contact-infected pigs compared to intravenously inoculated pigs.

For contact-infected pigs, HEV RNA was detected in 20 of 39 muscle samples that were proxies for pork at retail and in 4 of 7 urine samples.


The course of infection differed between infection routes, suggesting that contact-infection could be a better model for natural transmission than intravenous inoculation.

Urine and meat were identified as possible HEV-sources for pig-to-pig and pig-to-human HEV transmission.


Bouwknegt M., S.A. Rutjes, C.B.E.M. Reusken, N. Stockhofe-Zurwieden, K. Frankena, M.C.M. de Jong, A-M.de Roda Husman and W.H.M. van der Poel. 2009. The course of hepatitis E virus infection in pigs after contact-infection and intravenous inoculation. BMC Veterinary Research 2009, 5:7doi:10.1186/1746-6148-5-7

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.
© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.