Human hepatitis E virus (HEV) is considered an emerging pathogen in industrialized countries. The aim of the present study was to contribute to the body of knowledge available on the molecular epidemiology of acute hepatitis E in Italy. Three sets of HEV-specific primers targeting the ORF1 and ORF2 were used to examine serum samples collected from acute hepatitis patients positive for anti-HEV IgG and/or IgM, between 2007 and 2010. Seventeen patients (39.5%) tested HEV RNA-positive: 12 infections, due to genotype 1, were associated with travel to endemic areas (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan), while five infections, due to genotype 3, were presumably autochthonous. Risk factors identified in this group included exposure to raw seafood, pork liver sausages and wild boar. Results from the present study confirm that human HEV infection in Italy is caused by different genotypes, depending on whether the infection is travel-related or autochthonous.
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