Novel hepatitis E like virus found in Swedish moose.

The Journal of general virology (2013-12-04)
Jay Lin, Heléne Norder, Henrik Uhlhorn, Sándor Belák, Frederik Widén

A novel virus was detected in a sample collected from a Swedish moose (Alces alces). The virus was suggested as a member of the Hepeviridae family, although it was found to be highly divergent from the known four genotypes (gt1-4) of hepatitis E virus (HEV). Moose are regularly hunted for consumption in the whole of Scandinavia. Thus, the finding of this virus may be important from several aspects: (a) as a new diverged HEV in a new animal species, and (b) potential unexplored HEV transmission pathways for human infections. Considering these aspects, we have started the molecular characterization of this virus. A 5.1 kb amplicon was sequenced, and corresponded to the partial ORF1, followed by complete ORF2, ORF3 and poly(A) sequence. In comparison with existing HEVs, the moose HEV genome showed a general nucleotide sequence similarity of 37-63% and an extensively divergent putative ORF3 sequence. The junction region between the ORFs was also highly divergent; however, two putative secondary stem-loop structures were retained when compared to gt1-4, but with altered structural appearance. In the phylogenetic analysis, the moose HEV deviated and formed its own branch between the gt1-4 and other divergent animal HEVs. The characterization of this highly divergent genome provides important information regarding the diversity of HEV infecting various mammalian species. However, further studies are needed to investigate its prevalence in the moose populations and possibly in other host species, including the risk for human infection.

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