Molecular epidemiology of hepatitis E virus infections in Shanghai, China
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Background Hepatitis E virus (HEV) causes acute or fulminant hepatitis in humans and is an important public health concern in many developing countries. China has a high incidence of HEV epidemics, with at least three genotypes (1, 3 and 4) and nine subtypes (1b, 1c, 3b, 4a, 4b, 4d, 4g, 4h and 4i) so far identified. Since genotype 3 and the newly identified subtype 4i have been exclusively limited geographically to Shanghai and its neighboring provinces, the epidemiology of HEV infections within the municipality, a major industrial and commercial center, deserves closer attention. Findings A total of 65 sequences, 60 located within the HEV SH-SW-zs1 genome [GenBank:EF570133], together with five full-length swine and human HEV genomic sequences, all emanating from Shanghai, were retrieved from GenBank. Consistent with the primary role of genotype 4 in China overall, analysis of the sequences revealed this to have been the dominant genotype (58/65) in Shanghai. Six HEV subtypes (3b, 4a, 4b, 4d, 4h and 4i) were also represented. However, although subtype 4a is the dominant subtype throughout China, subtype 4i (29/65) was the most prevalent subtype among the Shanghai sequences, followed by subtypes 4d (10/65) and 4h (9/65). Subtypes 4h, 4i and 4d were found in both swine and humans, whereas 4b was found only in swine and subtype 4a only in humans. Conclusions Six different swine and human HEV subtypes have so far been documented in Shanghai. More molecular epidemiological investigations of HEV in swine, and particularly among the human population, should be undertaken.