Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2000; 181:449-55


The recent identification of antibody to hepatitis E virus (HEV) in pigs, sheep, and cattle and characterization of an HEV isolated from domestic pigs suggest animal reservoirs for this virus. To investigate whether rodents might be a natural reservoir of HEV, the prevalence of anti-HEV was determined among a variety of species throughout the United States. Serum samples were obtained from 806 rodents of 26 species in 15 genera. Anti-HEV prevalence was assessed by 2 EIAs (mosaic protein- and 55-kDa protein-based), which gave concordant results. The highest prevalence of antibody was found in the genus Rattus (59.7%; 66/278). Overall, rodents from urban habitats had a significantly higher prevalence of anti-HEV than did animals captured from rural areas. A high prevalence of anti-HEV was found in animals captured on mainland versus barrier islands. The results from this study provide convincing evidence of widespread HEV or HEV-like infection in rodents of the United States.