Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is prevalent in pigs and may serve as a reservoir for human infection. However, data on HEV infections in pigs in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, are limited. Here, we clarified the process and course of HEV in naturally infected pigs. Serum ( n = 160) and liver ( n = 110) samples were collected from pigs at the slaughterhouse. Furthermore, serum samples were collected from 45 breeding sows and serum and feces samples were collected from 7 piglets once a week (raised until 166 days of age). HEV antigen and antibodies were evaluated, and the genotype was identified based on molecular phylogenetic tree analysis.
The samples collected from the slaughterhouse revealed that few pigs were HEV carriers but most possessed anti-HEV antibodies. Most breeding sows possessed antibodies, and the piglets excreted HEV on the farm at approximately 10 weeks of age. One pig was initially infected, and in a few weeks, the other pigs living in the same sty became infected.