Nine-year nationwide environmental surveillance of hepatitis E virus in urban wastewaters in Italy (2011–2019)

Marcello Iaconelli, Giusy Bonanno Ferraro, Pamela Mancini, Elisabetta Suffredini, Carolina Veneri, Anna Rita Ciccaglione, Roberto Bruni, Simonetta Della Libera, Francesco Bignami, Massimo Brambilla, Dario De Medici, David Brandtner, Pietro Schembri, Stefania D’amato, Giuseppina La Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an emerging causative agent of acute hepatitis worldwide. To provide insights into the epidemiology of HEV in Italy, a large-scale investigation was conducted into urban sewage over nine years (2011–2019), collecting 1374 sewage samples from 48 wastewater treatment plants located in all the 20 regions of Italy. Broadly reactive primers targeting the ORF1 and ORF2 regions were used for the detection and typing of HEV, followed by Sanger and next generation sequencing (NGS). Real-time RT-qPCR was also used to attempt quantification of positive samples. HEV RNA detection occurred in 74 urban sewage samples (5.4%), with a statistically significant higher frequency (7.1%) in central Italy. Fifty-six samples were characterized as G3 strains and 18 as G1. While the detection of G3 strains occurred in all the surveillance period, G1 strains were mainly detected in 2011–2012, and never in 2017–2019. Typing was achieved in 2 samples (3f subtype). Viral concentrations in quantifiable samples ranged from 1.2 × 103 g.c./L to 2.8 × 104 g.c./L. Our results suggest the considerable circulation of the virus in the Italian population, despite a relatively small number of notified cases, a higher occurrence in central Italy, and a noteworthy predominance of G3 strains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2059
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Hepatitis E virus
  • PCR
  • Prevalence
  • Sequencing
  • Sewage
  • Typing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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