Author(s): Schlauder GG, Desai SM, Zanetti AR, TassopoulosNC, Mushahwar IK
Abstract Hepatitis E infection is associated with areas in which hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is endemic. Acute infections in industrialized nations are usually linked to travel to endemic areas. Recently, an acute hepatitis infection in a patient from the United States (US), with no recent foreign travel history, was linked to a novel strain of HEV. Although a few additional cases have been reported from patients who have not traveled to endemic areas, the source of these infections has not been determined. The objective of this study was to identify additional HEV isolates from patients with acute infection who had no recent history of travel to areas where HEV is considered endemic, and to determine the genetic relationship between these and other HEV isolates. Viral RNA was isolated from serum and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed using consensus primers based on a number of HEV isolates. HEV sequence in open reading frame (ORF) 1 and ORF2 was identified in three patients from nonendemic areas, one from Italy and two from Greece. Comparative and phylogenetic analyses were performed. The Greek and Italian isolates were significantly divergent from two isolates from the US and isolates identified previously from HEV-endemic regions. The Italian isolate was distinct from the two Greek isolates. In addition, the two Greek isolates were significantly divergent from each other. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the Italian and two Greek isolates represent three new genotypes of HEV, distinct from the Burmese, Mexican, and US genotypes.