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J Gen Virol. 2012 Mar;93(Pt 3):526-30. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.037259-0. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

A naturally occurring human/hepatitis E recombinant virus predominates in serum but not in faeces of a chronic hepatitis E patient and has a growth advantage in cell culture.

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


Hepatitis E virus is the aetiological agent of acute hepatitis E, a self-limiting disease prevalent in developing countries. Molecular analysis of viral genomic RNA from a chronically infected patient confirmed the recent discovery that chronic infection correlated with extensive diversification of the virus quasispecies: the hypervariable region of some virus genomes in this USA patient contained large continuous deletions and a minor proportion of genomes in faeces and serum had acquired a mammalian sequence that encoded 39 aa of S19 ribosomal protein fused to the virus non-structural protein. Genomes with this insert were selected during virus passage in cultured cells to become the predominant species, suggesting that the inserted sequence promoted virus growth. The results demonstrated that hepatitis E virus can mutate dramatically during a prolonged infection and suggests it may be important to prevent or cure chronic infections before new variants with unpredictable properties arise.

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