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Detection of hepatitis E virus in faeces and liver of pigs collected at two Slovenian slaughterhouses

Keywords: hepatitis E virus , pigs , slaughterhouse , undercooked pork meat , zoonosis

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Abstract:

In recent years there have been numerous reports from different parts of the world describing hepatitis E virus (HEV) as a zoonotic agent, but the clinical cases in humans are still reported only sporadically. Domestic pigs represent the main reservoir of the HEV. Until recently it was believed that the HEV was transmitted only by faecal-oral route, but it has been proved that eating raw or undercooked pork meat and offal can cause acute HEV infection in human. This has triggered the alarm and many developed countries have already done a few studies to assess the percentage of infected pigs.In this study the situation regarding the risk factor of HEV among pigs that enter the food chain in Slovenia was evaluated. At two different slaughterhouses 87 faeces and liver samples were collected from pigs within two age groups. 32 faeces and liver samples were collected from 3 months old pigs and 55 faeces and liver samples from 6 months old pigs. Animals were brought to the slaughterhouse from different farms located at the north eastern part of Slovenia, where the majority of the pig population is located. Collected samples were analysed with real-time RT-PCR method. Nucleic acids of HEV was found in 6 faeces samples from the younger age group (3 months of age), which represents 19% of examined samples. All liver samples from 3 months old pigs were negative. All samples of faeces and liver from 6 month old pigs were negative. The results were comparable with those from other European countries, where 7-30% of swine faeces samples were found HEV positive.

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