National Health Laboratory Service, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town; and Division of Medical Virology, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa. [Email]
BACKGROUND : Hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotypes 3 and 4 are zoonoses, with domestic pigs being the most important reservoir. A high anti- HEV IgG seroprevalence of 26 - 28% has been found in humans in Cape Town, South Africa (SA). Studies in industrialised countries have indicated a high prevalence of HEV in pigs and their associated food products. OBJECTIVE : To determine whether HEV could be found in pig-derived food products in Cape Town. METHODS : Pork-containing food products were purchased from supermarkets and butcheries around the Cape Town metropolitan area. HEV detection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed, and an amplified viral genome fragment was sequenced from positive samples. Phylogenetic analysis was done on the sequenced fragment. RESULTS : HEV was detected by PCR in 2/144 food samples - both were liver spread samples. One genome fragment sequence was obtained, which was closely related to HEV sequences obtained from humans in Cape Town. CONCLUSIONS : HEV can be found in pork-containing meat products available for sale in Cape Town, suggesting that these products could be a potential source of HEV transmission in our geographical area. Meat of pig origin should be thoroughly cooked before being consumed.