Hepatitis E Virus in Ferrets

Hepatitis E Virus consists of four recognized major genotypes that infect both humans and other animals. Genotypes 1 and 2 are restricted to humans and often associated with large outbreaks and epidemics in developing countries with poor sanitation conditions, whereas genotypes 3 and 4 infect humans, pigs and other animal species and are responsible for sporadic cases of hepatitis E in both developing and industrialized countries[1].
Hepatitis E virus is transmitted by the fecal–oral route, usually through contaminated drinking water. It causes liver inflammation, jaundice, fatigue and nausea. Pregnant woman, especially those in the third trimester, suffer an elevated mortality rate from the disease of around 20%[2].

Recent reports suggest that other animals such as rats[3], mongooses, chickens, rabbits, and trout[4] also may harbor Hepatitis E viruses.
In 2011 Hepatitis E Virus in ferrets (Mustela putorius) from the Netherlands was investigated. It appeared that some of the ferrets were infected with a novel Hepatitis E Virus[5]. Then, in 2014, research appeared that some Japanse ferrets were also infected with a Hepatitis E Virus, but analysis indicated that these ferret Hepatitis E Virus strains were clearly separated from Dutch strains and should be classified into two distinct clusters suggesting that ferret Hepatitis E Virus is genetically diverse[6].

[1] Meng: Hepatitis E virus: animal reservoirs and zoonotic risk in Veterinary Microbiology – 2011
[2] Aggarwal et al: Hepatitis E in Hepatology – 2011
[3] Johne et al: Novel hepatitis E virus genotype in Norway rats, Germany in Emerging Infectious Diseases – 2010
[4] Batts et al: A novel member of the family Hepeviridae from cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) in Virus Research – 2011
[5] Raj et al: Novel Hepatitis E Virus in Ferrets, the Netherlands in Emerging Infectious Diseases – 2012
[6] Li et al: Ferret hepatitis E virus infection in Japan in Japanese Journal of Infectious Diseases - 2014

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