The recent identification in rabbits of hepatitis E viruses (HEV) related to viruses infecting humans raises the question of the role of this species as possible HEV reservoir. A serological survey on rabbit HEV infection was conducted in Italy during 2013-2014, including both farmed and pet rabbits. We found an anti-HEV antibody seroprevalence of 3.40 % in 206 farmed rabbits (collected on 7 farms) and 6.56 % in 122 pets. RNA was extracted from IgG-positive sera and analyzed by HEV-specific real-time RT-PCR. None of the samples were positive, confirming that no viremia was present in the presence of IgG. Only one serum sample from a farmed rabbit was positive for IgM, but no HEV RNA was detected in it. Pet rabbit feces were also tested for HEV RNA, with negative results. This finding suggests that HEV is circulating in rabbits in Italy.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: May 1, 2016
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