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Veterinary researchers discover first US strains of hepatitis E virus from rabbits
Date:10/25/2011

Researchers in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have identified the first strains of hepatitis E virus from farmed rabbits in the United States. It is unknown whether the virus can spread from rabbits to humans.

Caitlin Cossaboom of Salisbury, Md., a second-year student in the combined Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Ph.D. program in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, is the first author of a publication entitled "Hepatitis E Virus in Rabbits, Virginia, USA" in the November issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Although researchers found hepatitis E virus in rabbits in China in 2009, this is the first time the virus has been identified in rabbits in the United States or anywhere outside of China," Cossaboom said.

Dr. X.J. Meng, professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology in the veterinary college, Cossaboom's graduate advisor, and senior author of the study, identified the first animal strains of hepatitis E virus swine hepatitis E virus from pigs in 1997. Following the landmark study on swine hepatitis E virus by Meng and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, researchers began to consider hepatitis E virus a zoonotic virus.

"Since 1997, researchers have found hepatitis E virus in pigs essentially in every swine-producing country and shown that the virus from pigs can infect humans," said Meng, who added that his lab also identified avian hepatitis E virus from chickens in the United States and that other researchers later discovered strains of the virus in other animal species, including rats, mongoose, deer, and wild boars.

Hepatitis E is an acute hepatic disease caused by infection with an RNA virus that has a fecal-oral transmission route. The disease is mainly prevalent in developing countr
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Contact: Michael Sutphin
msutphin@vt.edu
540-231-6716
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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Veterinary researchers discover first US strains of hepatitis E virus from rabbits
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