Hepatitis E virus in Common voles (Microtus arvalis) from an urban environment, Hungary: discovery of a Cricetidae-specific genotype of Orthohepevirus C.
Hepatitis E virus is a major causative agent of acute hepatitis worldwide. Despite its zoonotic potential, there is limited information about the natural chain of hepevirus infection in wildlife, and the potential reservoir species. In this study, we performed a HEV survey by heminested RT-PCR on rodent samples from an urban environment (in the city of Pécs, Hungary) and investigated the prevalence of the virus among these native rodent species (Apodemus agrarius, Apodemus flavicollis, Apodemus sylvaticus, Microtus arvalis and Myodes glareolus). HEV was detected exclusively in Common voles (M. arvalis), in 10.2% of screened voles, and 3.2% of all investigated samples from all species. Based on the phylogenetic analysis, our strain showed the closest homology with European Orthohepevirus C strains detected previously in faecal samples of birds of prey and Red fox, supporting the possibility of the dietary origin of these strains. In addition, our samples showed close phylogenetic relation with a South American strain detected in Necromys lasiurus (Cricetidae), but separated clearly from other Muridae-associated strains, suggesting the presence of a Cricetidae-specific genotype in Europe and South-America. Based on these results, we hypothesize the reservoir role of M. arvalis rodents for the European Cricetidae-specific Orthohepevirus C genotype.