Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the causative agent of acute and chronic hepatitis in humans. The zoonotic HEV genotype 3 is the main genotype in Europe. The foodborne transmission via consumption of meat and meat products prepared from infected pigs or wild boars is considered the major transmission route of this genotype. High hydrostatic pressure processing (HPP) is a technique, which can be used for inactivation of pathogens in food. Here, preparations of a cell culture-adapted HEV genotype 3 strain in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) were subjected to HPP and the remaining infectivity was titrated in cell culture by counting fluorescent foci of replicating virus. A gradual decrease in infectivity was found by application of 100 to 600 MPa for 2 min. At 20 °C, infectivity reduction of 0.5 log at 200 MPa and 1 log at 400 MPa were observed. Slightly higher infectivity reduction of 1 log at 200 MPa and 2 log at 400 MPa were found by application of the pressure at 4 °C. At both temperatures, the virus was nearly completely inactivated (>3.5 log infectivity decrease) at 600 MPa; however, low amounts of remaining infectious virus were observed in one of three replicates in both cases. Transmission electron microscopy showed disassembled and distorted particles in the preparations treated with 600 MPa. Time-course experiments at 400 MPa showed a continuous decline of infectivity from 30 s to 10 min, leading to a 2 log infectivity decrease at 20 °C and to a 2.5 log infectivity decrease at 4 °C for a 10 min pressure application each. Predictive models for inactivation of HEV by HPP were generated on the basis of the generated data. The results show that HPP treatment can reduce HEV infectivity, which is mainly dependent on pressure height and duration of the HPP treatment. Compared to other viruses, HEV appears to be relatively stable against HPP and high pressure/long time combinations have to be applied for significant reduction of infectivity.
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