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Int J Food Microbiol. 2008 Mar 31;123(1-2):32-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2007.11.068. Epub 2007 Dec 4.

Inactivation of infectious hepatitis E virus present in commercial pig livers sold in local grocery stores in the United States.

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Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0342, United States.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a zoonotic pathogen and pigs are a known reservoir. Recently we showed that approximately 11% of commercial pig livers sold in local U.S. grocery stores for food consumptions are contaminated by infectious HEV. In this study, a swine bioassay was used to determine if the infectious HEV in contaminated commercial pig livers could be inactivated by traditional cooking methods. Group 1 pigs (n=5) were each inoculated intravenously (i.v.) with a HEV-negative liver homogenate as negative controls, group 2 pigs (n=5) were each inoculated i.v. with a pool of two HEV-positive pig liver homogenates as positive controls, groups 3, 4 and 5 pigs (n=5, each group) were each inoculated i.v. with a pool of homogenates of two HEV-positive livers incubated at 56 degrees C for 1 h, stir-fried at 191 degrees C (internal temperature of 71 degrees C) for 5 min or boiled in water for 5 min, respectively. As expected, the group 2 positive control pigs all became infected whereas the group 1 negative control pigs remained negative. Four of the five pigs inoculated with HEV-positive liver homogenates incubated at 56 degrees C for 1 h also became infected. However, pigs in groups 4 and 5 did not become infected. The results indicated that HEV in contaminated commercial pig livers can be effectively inactivated if cooked properly, although incubation at 56 degrees C for 1 h cannot inactivate the virus. Thus, to reduce the risk of food-borne HEV transmission, pig livers must be thoroughly cooked.

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