Hepatitis E is an important medical pathogen in many developing countries but is rarely reported from the United States, although antibody to hepatitis E virus (anti-HEV) is found in > 1% of U.S. citizens. Zoonotic spread of the virus is suspected. Sera obtained from 239 wild rats trapped in widely separated regions of the United States were tested for anti-HEV. Seventy-seven percent of rats from Maryland, 90% from Hawaii, and 44% from Louisiana were seropositive for anti-HEV. Rats from urban as well as rural areas were seropositive and the prevalence of anti-HEV IgG increased in parallel with the estimated age of the rats, leading to speculation that they might be involved in the puzzling high prevalence of anti-HEV among some U.S. city dwellers. The discovery of anti-HEV in rats in the United States and the recently reported discovery that HEV is endemic in U.S. swine raise many questions about transmission, reservoirs, and strains of HEV in developed countries.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases