Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Veterinary researchers discover first U.S. strains of hepatitis E virus from rabbits

Date:
October 25, 2011
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
Researchers in Virginia have identified the first strains of hepatitis E virus from farmed rabbits in the United States. It is unknown whether the virus can spread from rabbits to humans.

Caitlin Cossaboom (left), a combined Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Ph.D. student in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. X.J. Meng (right), a professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology, conduct research on hepatitis E virus in the U.S. rabbit population.
Credit: Image courtesy of Virginia Tech

Researchers in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have identified the first strains of hepatitis E virus from farmed rabbits in the United States. It is unknown whether the virus can spread from rabbits to humans.

Caitlin Cossaboom of Salisbury, Md., a second-year student in the combined Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Ph.D. program in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, is the first author of a publication entitled "Hepatitis E Virus in Rabbits, Virginia, USA" in the November issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Although researchers found hepatitis E virus in rabbits in China in 2009, this is the first time the virus has been identified in rabbits in the United States or anywhere outside of China," Cossaboom said.

Dr. X.J. Meng, professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology in the veterinary college, Cossaboom's graduate advisor, and senior author of the study, identified the first animal strains of hepatitis E virus -- swine hepatitis E virus from pigs -- in 1997. Following the landmark study on swine hepatitis E virus by Meng and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, researchers began to consider hepatitis E virus a zoonotic virus.

"Since 1997, researchers have found hepatitis E virus in pigs essentially in every swine-producing country and shown that the virus from pigs can infect humans," said Meng, who added that his lab also identified avian hepatitis E virus from chickens in the United States and that other researchers later discovered strains of the virus in other animal species, including rats, mongoose, deer, and wild boars.

Hepatitis E is an acute hepatic disease caused by infection with an RNA virus that has a fecal-oral transmission route. The disease is mainly prevalent in developing countries, though sporadic cases have been reported in industrialized countries such as the United States. The mortality rate associated with hepatitis E virus infection in humans is generally less than 1 percent, but it can reach up to 28 percent in infected pregnant women.

The virus has at least four distinct genotypes. Genotypes 1 and 2 infect only humans and typically occur in developing countries with poor sanitation conditions. Meanwhile, genotypes 3 and 4 are zoonotic, can spread from animals to humans, and are found in both industrialized and developing countries.

"It is worth noting that the strains of the virus found in rabbits in the U.S. and China closely relate to genotype 3, a genotype that has been shown to transfer from animals to humans," Meng said. "The question is, 'Do the strains of hepatitis E virus in rabbits infect humans?' We don't know, but the possibility is there and more research is needed to address this potential concern."

Cossaboom and her colleagues collected fecal and serum samples from 85 rabbits from two farms in Virginia -- one in Southwest Virginia and one in Eastern Virginia -- and found that approximately 50 percent of the rabbits were exposed to the hepatitis E virus. Researchers were able to genetically identify four isolates of the virus from the two rabbit farms.

"For future research, we are particularly interested in the potential zoonotic infection of humans and food safety concerns," Cossaboom said.

She added that pigs can serve as "animal reservoirs" for genotypes 3 and 4 hepatitis E virus. In other words, the pigs can carry and shed the virus, and occasionally the virus may transmit to humans. "However, it is unknown if the virus from rabbits can infect across species or serve as a reservoir," Cossaboom said.

There are five known types of viral hepatitis: Hepatitis A transmits from person to person from ingesting contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B and C spread by blood-to-blood contact; the hepatitis C virus can also cause chronic infection and, in some cases, liver cancer. Hepatitis D occurs in individuals who already have hepatitis B. Although all of these viruses, including hepatitis E virus, target the liver, none of them are genetically related.

Laura Córdoba, a postdoctoral associate, and Barbara Dryman, a senior laboratory specialist, both in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, also co-authored the paper.

Meng's lab studies the molecular mechanisms of viral replication and pathogenesis and develops vaccines against emerging, reemerging, and zoonotic viral diseases. The lab, located in the college's Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease, is considered one of the world's leading hepatitis E virus research centers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Caitlin M. Cossaboom, Laura Córdoba, Barbara A. Dryman, and Xiang-Jin Meng. Hepatitis E Virus in Rabbits, Virginia, USA. Emerging Infectious Diseases, November 2011; DOI: 10.3201/eid1711.110428

Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Veterinary researchers discover first U.S. strains of hepatitis E virus from rabbits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025121604.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2011, October 25). Veterinary researchers discover first U.S. strains of hepatitis E virus from rabbits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025121604.htm
Virginia Tech. "Veterinary researchers discover first U.S. strains of hepatitis E virus from rabbits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025121604.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) — The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins