Presence of two different bovine hepacivirus clusters in Germany
During the last years, genetic information of hepaciviruses (family Flaviviridae), whose type species is the human hepatitis C virus, was detected in a wide range of primates and non‐primate vertebrates. Here, samples collected from 263 German cattle kept in 22 different holdings were analysed for the presence of hepacivirus N (syn. bovine hepacivirus; BovHepV). One hundred eighty‐six cattle that suffered from unspecific clinical signs such as fever and a reduced milk yield as well as 77 apparently healthy animals were included. A total of 39 cattle (14.8%) tested positive for BovHepV by real‐time RT‐PCR, but a correlation between clinical signs and virus infection could not be found. From 31 of the virus‐positive samples, sequences of the NS3 coding region were generated and from two samples, viral sequences of the complete coding region were produced and compared to further European and African BovHepV sequences. Based on the NS3 genomic region, two distinct German BovHepV clusters were identified which differed between each other up to 20% at the nucleotide level, the diversity within the individual clusters reached up to 10%. Based on the full‐length sequences, the newly detected virus variants group together with further German and African viruses in a sister relationship to other hepaciviruses from primates and further mammalians, but form distinct clusters within the BovHepV branch. In conclusion, highly diverse hepaciviruses were detected in German cattle further expanding the known phylogenetic diversity of the genus Hepacivirus.