Hepatitis E is an increasingly diagnosed human disease in Central Europe. Besides domestic pigs, in which hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is highly prevalent, wild boars have been identified as a possible source of human infection. In order to assess the distribution of HEV in the wild boar population of Germany, we tested liver samples originating from different geographical regions for the presence of the HEV genome and compared the detected sequences to animal and human HEV strains.
A total of 148 wild boar liver samples were tested using real-time RT-PCR resulting in an average HEV detection rate of 14.9% (95% CI 9.6–21.6). HEV was detected in all age classes and all geographical regions. However, the prevalence of HEV infection was significantly higher in rural as compared to urban regions (p < 0.001). Sequencing of the PCR products indicated a high degree of heterogenicity of the detected viruses within genotype 3 and a grouping according to their geographical origin. The whole genome sequence of an HEV isolate (wbGER27) detected in many wild boars in the federal state of Brandenburg was determined. It belongs to genotype 3i and shows 97.9% nucleotide sequence identity to a partial sequence derived from a human hepatitis E patient from Germany.