Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a zoonotic pathogen of which pigs have been established as reservoirs. In the present study, we investigated the presence of HEV among pigs in the Center and Littoral regions of Cameroon and performed the molecular characterization of positive strains.
A total of 453 serum and stool samples were randomly collected from pigs in slaughterhouses in Obala, Douala and Yaounde. All samples were examined for the presence of anti-HEV IgG and IgM antibodies using ELISA assays. IgM positive stool samples were tested for HEV RNA using an RT-PCR assay, followed by a nested PCR assay for sequencing and phylogenetic analysis.
Overall, 216 samples (47.7%, 95% CI: 43.1%-52.3%) were positive for at least one of the serological markers of HEV infection. Amongst these, 21.0% were positives for anti-HEV IgM, 17.7% for anti-HEV IgG, and 9.1% for both. A total of eight stool samples (5.9%) were positive for HEV RNA by nested RT-PCR. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the retrieved sequences clustered within HEV genotype 3.
This study shows a high prevalence of anti-HEV antibodies and the circulation of genotype 3 in the swine population in Cameroon. Subsequent studies will be needed to elucidate the zoonotic transmission of HEV from pigs to humans in Cameroon.