Hepatitis E Virus in Rats

A taxonomic scheme was recently proposed in which the family of Hepatitis E viruses was divided into the genera Orthohepevirus (all mammalian and avian Hepatitis E viruses) and Piscihepevirus (cutthroat trout virus). Species within the genus Orthohepevirus are designated Orthohepevirus A (isolates from human, pig, wild boar, deer, mongoose, rabbit and camel), Orthohepevirus B (isolates from chicken), Orthohepevirus C (isolates from rat, greater bandicoot, Asian musk shrew, ferret and mink) and Orthohepevirus D (isolates from bat)[1].
Following the now accepted scheme, Hepatitis E Virus in rats is now called Hepatitis E Virus C-1, the first virus in the Orthohepevirus C sub-family. HEV-C1 strains can be divided into three genetic groups (G1, G2 and G3)[2].

So, Hepatitis E Virus has been found to infect rats. The question remained if this virus could infect humans. Test in laboratories suggested that it could, but now the first couple of human cases of rat Hepatitis E Virus have been reported.

[28sep18] The BBC reported: First human case of rat hepatitis found in Hong Kong

A 56-year-old man from Hong Kong has developed the world's first human case of rat hepatitis E. Researchers say it is unclear how the man contracted the virus, but refuse bins outside his home were infested with rats.

Doctors discovered the case when tests on the man showed abnormal liver function following a liver transplant. Further tests showed that he was carrying a strain of hepatitis "highly divergent" from the strain that affects humans, researchers from the University of Hong Kong said.

[21nov18] Outbreak News Today reported: Hong Kong reports 2nd human case of Rat Hepatitis E The Department of Health confirmed that the second patient was a retiree with underlying illnesses and a suppressed immune system.

[1] Smith et al: Consensus proposals for classification of the family Hepeviridae in Journal of General Virology – 2014
[2] Obana et al: Epizootiological study of rodent-borne hepatitis E virus HEV-C1 in small mammals in Hanoi, Vietnam in Journal of Veterinary Medical Science - 2017

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