Foodborne Transmission and Molecular Mechanism of Cross-species Infection of Hepatitis E Virus (HEV)
Feagins, Alicia R.
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Hepatitis E virus (HEV), the causative agent of hepatitis E, is an emerging virus of global distribution. At least four distinct genotypes of HEV exist worldwide: genotype 1 and 2 HEV strains are responsible for waterborne epidemics; genotype 3 and 4 HEV strains are responsible for sporadic occurrences of acute hepatitis E. Genotype 3 and 4 HEVs are zoonotic and have a more expanded host range than genotypes 1 and 2 which are restricted to humans. Genotype 3 and 4 HEV isolates obtained from animal tissues are genetically very similar, or identical in some cases, to human HEV recovered from hepatitis E patients. The objectives of this dissertation research were to assess the zoonotic foodborne transmission of HEV and elucidate the viral determinants of HEV host range. To determine the risk of HEV foodborne transmission, 127 packages of commercial pig liver were tested for HEV RNA. Eleven percent of them were positive for HEV RNA and the contaminating virus remained infectious. We also demonstrated that medium-to-rare cooking condition (56°C) does not completely inactivate HEV, although frying and boiling of the contaminated livers inactivated the virus. To reduce the risk of foodborne HEV transmission, commercial pig livers must be thoroughly cooked for consumption. To determine the host range of genotype 4 HEVs, pigs were inoculated with a genotype 4 human HEV. All pigs developed an active HEV infection indicating that genotype 4 human HEVs can cross species barriers and infect pigs. To identify viral determinant(s) of species tropism, ORF2 alone or in combination with its adjacent 5′ junction region (JR) and 3′ non-coding region (NCR), were swapped between genotypes 1 and 4, 3 and 4, and 1 and 3 to produce 5 chimeric viruses. Chimeric viruses containing ORF2 or JR+ORF2+3' NCR from genotype 4 human HEV in the backbone of genotype 3 swine HEV were viable in vitro and infectious in vivo. Chimeric viruses containing the JR+ORF2+3'NCR of genotypes 3 or 4 HEV in the backbone of genotype 1 human HEV were viable in vitro but non-infectious in pigs, suggesting that ORF1 may also be important for host range.
- Doctoral Dissertations