Evidence for an Unknown Agent Antigenically Related to the Hepatitis E Virus in Dairy Cows in the United States

Danielle M Yugo, Caitlin M Cossaboom, C Lynn Heffron, Yao-Wei Huang, Scott P Kenney, Amelia R Woolums, David J Hurley, Tanja Opriessnig, Linlin Li, Eric Delwart, Isis Kanevsky, Xiang-Jin Meng

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Genotypes 3 and 4 hepatitis E virus (HEV) strains within the species Orthohepevirus A in the family Hepeviridae are zoonotic. Recently, a genotype 4 HEV was reportedly detected in fecal samples of cows; although, independent confirmation is lacking. In this study, we first tested serum samples from 983 cows in different regions in the United States for the presence of IgG anti-HEV and found that 20.4% of cows were seropositive. The highest seroprevalence rate (68.4%) was from a herd in Georgia. In an attempt to genetically identify HEV from cattle, a prospective study was conducted in a known seropositive dairy herd by monitoring 10 newborn calves from birth to 6 months of age for evidence of HEV infection. At least three of the 10 calves seroconverted to IgG anti-HEV, and importantly, the antibodies present neutralized genotype 3 human HEV, thus indicating the specificity of IgG anti-HEV in cattle. However, our extensive attempts using broad-spectrum RT-PCR assays and MiSeq deep-sequencing technology to identify HEV-related sequences in cattle failed. The results suggest the existence of an agent antigenically-related to HEV in cattle; although, contrary to published reports, we showed that the IgG recognizing HEV in cattle was not caused by HEV infection. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Early online date14 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Oct 2018


  • Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
  • Cattle
  • Bovine
  • Zoonotic transmission;
  • Neutralizing antibodies
  • Seroprevalence


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