Nucleotide sequences from a total of 421 HEV isolates were retrieved from Genbank and analysed. Phylogenetically, HEV was classified into four major genotypes. Genotype 1 was more conserved and classified into five subtypes. The number of genotype 2 sequences was limited but can be classified into two subtypes. Genotypes 3 and 4 were extremely diverse and can be subdivided into ten and seven subtypes. Geographically, genotype 1 was isolated from tropical and several subtropical countries in Asia and Africa, and genotype 2 was from Mexico, Nigeria, and Chad; whereas genotype 3 was identified almost worldwide including Asia, Europe, Oceania, North and South America. In contrast, genotype 4 was found exclusively in Asia. It is speculated that genotype 3 originated in the western hemisphere and was imported to several Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, while genotype 4 has been indigenous and likely restricted to Asia. Genotypes 3 and 4 were not only identified in swine but also in wild animals such as boar and a deer. Furthermore, in most areas where genotypes 3 and 4 were characterised, sequences from both humans and animals were highly conserved, indicating they originated from the same infectious sources. Based upon nucleotide differences from five phylogenies, it is proposed that five, two, ten and seven subtypes for HEV genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 be designated alphabetised subtypes. Accordingly, a total of 24 subtypes (1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e, 3f, 3g, 3h, 3i, 3j, 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d, 4e, 4f and 4g) were given. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.