Zoonotic transmission of hepatitis E virus (HEV) is of special concern, particularly in high income countries were waterborne infections are less frequent than in developing countries. High HEV seroprevalences can be found in European pig populations. The aims of this study were to obtain prevalence data on HEV infection in swine in Belgium and to phylogenetically compare Belgian human HEV sequences with those obtained from swine. An ELISA screening prevalence of 73% (95% CI 68.8–77.5) was determined in Belgian pigs and a part of the results were re-evaluated by Western blot (WB). A receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was performed and scenarios varying the ELISA specificity relative to WB were analysed. The seroprevalences estimated by the different scenarios ranged between 69 and 81% and are in agreement with the high exposure of the European pig population to HEV. Pig HEV sequences were genetically compared to those detected in humans in Belgium and a predominance of genotype 3 subtype f was shown in both swine and humans. The high HEV seroprevalence in swine and the close phylogenetic relationships between pig and human HEV sequences further support the risk for zoonotic transmission of HEV between humans and pigs.
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