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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 8;108(6):2438-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018878108. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Cross-species infections of cultured cells by hepatitis E virus and discovery of an infectious virus-host recombinant.

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Section of Molecular Hepatitis, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The RNA virus, hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the most or second-most important cause of acute clinical hepatitis in adults throughout much of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In these regions it is an important cause of acute liver failure, especially in pregnant women who have a mortality rate of 20-30%. Until recently, hepatitis E was rarely identified in industrialized countries, but Hepatitis E now is reported increasingly throughout Western Europe, some Eastern European countries, and Japan. Most of these cases are caused by genotype 3, which is endemic in swine, and these cases are thought to be zoonotically acquired. However, transmission routes are not well understood. HEV that infect humans are divided into nonzoonotic (types 1, 2) and zoonotic (types 3, 4) genotypes. HEV cell culture is inefficient and limited, and thus far HEV has been cultured only in human cell lines. The HEV strain Kernow-C1 (genotype 3) isolated from a chronically infected patient was used to identify human, pig, and deer cell lines permissive for infection. Cross-species infections by genotypes 1 and 3 were studied with this set of cultures. Adaptation of the Kernow-C1 strain to growth in human hepatoma cells selected for a rare virus recombinant that contained an insertion of 174 ribonucleotides (58 amino acids) of a human ribosomal protein gene.

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