Open Access Short Report

Prevalence and transmission of hepatitis E virus in domestic swine populations in different European countries

Alessandra Berto12*, Jantien A Backer1, Joao R Mesquita34, Maria SJ Nascimento4, Malcolm Banks2, Francesca Martelli2, Fabio Ostanello5, Giorgia Angeloni6, Ilaria Di Bartolo6, Franco M Ruggeri6, Petra Vasickova8, Marta Diez-Valcarce7, Marta Hernandez7, David Rodriguez-Lazaro7 and Wim HM van der Poel19

Author Affiliations

1 Central Veterinary Institute of Wageningen Univerisity and Research Centre, Lelystad, The Netherlands

2 Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Adllestone, Surrey, United Kingdom

3 Agrarian Superior School of the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, Department of Animal Science, Rural Engineering and Veterinary Science, Viseu, Portugal

4 Faculty of Pharmacy of Porto University, Department of Biological Sciences, Porto, Portugal

5 Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Bologna, Ozzano Emilia, Bologna, Italy

6 Department of Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety, Istituto Superiore di Sanita’, Rome, Italy

7 Instituto Tecnológico Agrario de Castilla y León (ITACyL), Junta de Castilla y León, Valladolid, Spain

8 Veterinary Research Institute, Brno, Czech Republic

9 National Centre for Zoonoses research, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:190  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-190

Published: 25 April 2012



Hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotype 3 and 4 can cause liver disease in human and has its main reservoir in pigs. HEV investigations in pigs worldwide have been performed but there is still a lack of information on the infection dynamics in pig populations.


The HEV transmission dynamics in commercial pig farms in six different European countries was studied. The data collected show prevalence in weaners ranging from 8% to 30%. The average HEV prevalence in growers was between 20% and 44%. The fatteners prevalence ranged between 8% and 73%. Sows prevalence was similar in all countries. Boar faeces were tested for HEV only in Spain and Czech Republic, and the prevalence was 4.3% and 3.5% respectively. The collected data sets were analyzed using a recently developed model to estimate the transmission dynamics of HEV in the different countries confirming that HEV is endemic in pig farms.


This study has been performed using similar detection methods (real time RT-PCR) for all samples and the same model (SIR model) to analyse the data. Furthermore, it describes HEV prevalence and within-herd transmission dynamics in European Countries (EU): Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and United Kingdom, confirming that HEV is circulating in pig farms from weaners to fatteners and that the reproductive number mathematical defined as R0 is in the same range for all countries studied.

Hepatitis E virus; Foodborne disease; Pork; Foodchain; PCR; Modeling; Prevalence; European countries