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A Putative Novel Hepatitis E Virus Genotype 3 Subtype Identified in Rabbit, Germany 2016

Hepatitis E is an emerging viral disease that is the leading cause of viral hepatitis in the world. The vast majority of hepatitis E cases in developed countries are caused by zoonotic genotypes 3 and 4 of hepatitis E virus (HEV) for which pig and wild boar and to lesser extent rabbits are the main reservoir. According to recent reports rabbits are a source of human HEV infection and highlight the risk of zoonotic foodborne transmission. Here we report the molecular analysis of a novel HEV strain identified in a rabbit during a countrywide surveillance of rabbits and hares in Germany, 2016. The analysis of the complete genome reveals characteristics of a putative novel recombinant subtype of the species Orthohepevirus A within the clade of genotype 3 but not closely related to any known subtypes. Importantly, the genome of this strain possesses a nucleotide exchange in the overlapping region of open reading frames ORF2/ORF3 interfering with a broadly applied diagnostic real‐time RT‐PCR. In conclusion, a new type of HEV strain was identified in a German rabbit with atypical and novel sequence characteristics.

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