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Recent advances in Hepatitis E Virus

Authors

  • X. J. Meng

    1. Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA
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Xiang-Jin Meng, MD, PhD, Professor of Molecular Virology, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1981 Kraft Drive, Blacksburg, VA, USA. E-mail: xjmeng@vt.edu

Abstract

Summary.  Hepatitis E virus (HEV), the causative agent of hepatitis E, belongs to the family Hepeviridae. At least four major genotypes of HEV have been recognized: genotypes 1 and 2 are restricted to humans and associated with epidemics in developing countries, whereas genotypes 3 and 4 are zoonotic and infect humans and several other animals in both developing and industrialized countries. Besides humans, strains of HEV have been genetically identified from swine, chickens, sika deer, mongeese, and rabbits. The genome of HEV consists of three open reading frames (ORFs): ORF1 codes for nonstructural proteins, ORF2 codes for capsid protein, and ORF3 codes for a small multifunctional protein. The ORF2 and ORF3 proteins are translated from a single bicistronic mRNA and overlap each other but neither overlaps ORF1. The recent determination of the 3D crystal structure of the HEV capsid protein should facilitate the development of vaccines and antivirals. The identification and characterization of animal strains of HEV from pigs and chickens and the demonstrated ability of cross-species infection by swine HEV raise public health concerns for zoonosis. Accumulating evidence indicated that hepatitis E is a zoonotic disease and pigs and more likely other animal species are reservoirs for HEV. This article provides an overview of the recent advances in hepatitis E and its causative agent, including nomenclature and genomic organization, gene expression and functions, 3D structure of the virions, changing perspectives on higher mortality during pregnancy and chronic hepatitis E, animal reservoirs, zoonotic risk, food safety, and novel animal models.

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