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J Virol Methods. 2007 Jul;143(1):112-6. Epub 2007 Feb 23.

Increased hepatitis E virus prevalence on Dutch pig farms from 33 to 55% by using appropriate internal quality controls for RT-PCR.

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  • 1Laboratory for Zoonoses and Environmental Microbiology, Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


Pigs have been suggested to be a potential reservoir for locally acquired human hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections in the Netherlands. To study possible trends in HEV prevalence in the Dutch pig population, 97 pig farms have been screened for the presence of HEV in stools. The prevalence rate of HEV was estimated at 55% (53/97) in 2005, indicating a significant increase as compared to the prevalence rate of 22% (25/115) as was reported in 1999. The current data suggest that this increase is due to the inclusion of appropriate quality assurance controls such as internal amplification controls for RT-PCR. The abundant presence of pigs excreting HEV raises concerns on potential zoonotic transmission of the virus, either by exposure through the environment or by consumption of contaminated pork products. Moreover, one of the detected strains belonged to a European cluster which was not detected in the Netherlands before, suggesting that HEV strains spread through European countries. These data demonstrate the need to include appropriate controls in diagnostic assays, especially in complex matrices such as feces which are known to contain PCR inhibitory substances.

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