Hepatitis A virus strains circulating during 1997-2015 in Campania, a Southern Italy region with periodic outbreaks

Angela Costantino, Nicola Coppola, Enea Spada, Roberto Bruni, Stefania Taffon, Michele Equestre, Cinzia Marcantonio, Caterina Sagnelli, Chiara Dell'Isola, Grazia Tosone, Silvia Mascolo, Evangelista Sagnelli, Anna Rita Ciccaglione

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In Italy, the incidence of hepatitis A has progressively declined over the last 30 years, though not homogeneously throughout the country. In Campania, Southern Italy, high annual incidence rates have been reported and several periodic outbreaks have occurred. To investigate the phylogenetic and epidemiologic relationships among HAV strains circulating in Campania over the period 1997-2015, 87 hepatitis A cases were investigated. The most frequent risk factor was the consumption of raw/undercooked shellfish (75/87, 86.2%). During 1997-2002 most viral strains were subtype IA (16/23, 70%); the phylogenetic pattern suggests that the incidence peaks observed in 2000-2001 had likely been caused by multiple strains. During a large 2004 outbreak, almost all viral variants were subtype IB (38/41, 93%); most of them (22/38, 58%) were recognized to be one of two main strains (differing for just a single nucleotide), the remaining sequences were strictly related variants. In 2014/2015, only IA strains were observed; two phylogenetically related but distinct strains were responsible, respectively, for a small cluster in 2014 and an outbreak in 2015. In each outbreak, several strains unrelated to those responsible for most cases were detected in a minority of patients, documenting a background of sporadic cases occurring even in the course of outbreaks; some of them proved to be identical to strains detected 11-14 years previously. Overall, the data suggest that several related and unrelated HAV strains have endemically circulated over the last 15 years in Campania, with some strains gaining epidemic transmission likely because of a local combination of multiple factors, including inadequate waste water purification and dietary habits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1931-1936
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2017


  • genotype
  • HAV
  • hepatitis A
  • outbreak
  • phylogenetic analysis
  • virus strain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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