Hepatitis A Virus in Himalayan Marmots

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is a hepatotropic ('liverloving') picornavirus that causes acute liver disease worldwide.

Scientists recently reported the identification of a novel Hepatitis A Virus in Himalayan marmots (Marmota Himalayana) in south-western China. They tentatively named the virus Marmota Himalayana Hepatitis A Virus (MHHAV)[1].
The genomic and molecular characterization of Marmota Himalayana Hepatitis A Virus indicates that it is most closely related genetically to (Primate) Hepatitis A Virus. The virus is morphologically and structurally similar to (Primate) Hepatitis A Virus.

Phylogenetic analysis further indicated that Marmota Himalayana Hepatitis A Virus groups with known Hepatitis A viruses, but forms an independent branch and represents a new species in the genus Hepatovirus.

Evolutionary analysis of Marmota Himalayana Hepatitis A Virus and primate Hepatitis A viruses led to a most recent common ancestor estimate of 1,000 years ago, while the common ancestor of all Hepatitis A-related viruses including phopivirus can be traced back to some 1800 years ago.

The discovery of Marmota Himalayana Hepatitis A Virus may provide new insights into the origin and evolution of Hepatitis A viruses.

[1] Yu et al: A novel hepatovirus identified in wild woodchuck Marmota himalayana in Scientific Reports – 2016

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