Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a major cause of human hepatitis worldwide. Zoonotic genotypes of the virus have been found in diverse animal species with pigs playing a major role. Putative risk of zoonotic infection from livestock particularly swine in Sub-Saharan Africa including Ghana is poorly understood due to scarcity of available data, especially HEV sequence information.
Serum samples were collected from cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Samples were subjected to nested RT-PCR screening and quantification of HEV RNA-positive samples using real-time RT-PCR and the World Health Organization International Standard for HEV. Testing of all pig samples for antibodies was done by ELISA. Sanger sequencing and genotyping was performed and one representative complete genome was generated to facilitate genome-wide comparison to other available African HEV sequences by phylogenetic analysis.
A total of 420 samples were available from cattle ( = 105), goats ( = 124), pigs ( = 89) and sheep ( = 102). HEV Viral RNA was detected only in pig samples (10.1%). The antibody detection rate in pigs was 77.5%, with positive samples from all sampling sites. Average viral load was 1 × 10 (range 1.02 × 10 to 3.17 × 10) International Units per mL of serum with no statistically significant differences between age groups (≤ 6 month, > 6 months) by a T-test comparison of means (t = 1.4272, df = 7,  = 0.1966). Sequences obtained in this study form a monophyletic group within HEV genotype 3. Sequences from Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Madagascar were found to share a most recent common ancestor; however this was not the case for other African HEV sequences.
HEV genotype 3 is highly endemic in pigs in Ghana and likely poses a zoonotic risk to people exposed to pigs. HEV genotype 3 in Ghana shares a common origin with other virus strains from Sub-Saharan Africa.

© The Author(s) 2020.