Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the causative agent of hepatitis E, an emerging public health infection which has an increasing incidence across Europe. Because of the apparent lack of species barriers, HEV was characterized as a zoonotic agent. Swine are recognized as the main reservoir, but HEV is also found in wild animals such as ungulates, lagomorphs, and bats. Our work aimed at detecting the HEV presence in wild fauna in two hunting areas of Northern Italy (Parma and Sondrio areas) with different environmental and anthropic characteristics to investigate its possible role as reservoir. Liver samples were collected from wild boars, red deer, roe deer and chamois, and viral identification was carried out by One-Step RT Real-time PCR. Positive samples were genotyped, and phylogenetic analysis was performed. The virus was found only in the wild boar population, with different prevalence and subtypes in the two areas (14% HEV3a and 1.2% close to HEV3f in Parma and Sondrio, respectively). Wild ruminants seem otherwise to pose a marginal risk. Given the high pig farm density in the Parma area, and expansion of the wild boar population, continuous monitoring of the strains circulating in wildlife is crucial.
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