Molecular epidemiology and genetic history of European-type genotype 3 hepatitis E virus indigenized in the central region of Japan

Tatsunori Nakano, Hiroshi Okano, Makoto Kobayashi, Keiichi Ito, Shigeru Ohmori, Tomoyuki Nomura, Hideaki Kato, Minoru Ayada, Yoko Nakano, Shigehiro Akachi, Kazushi Sugimoto, Naoki Fujita, Katsuya Shiraki, Yoshiyuki Takei, Masaharu Takahashi, Hiroaki Okamoto

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23 Citations (Scopus)


In Mie prefecture in Japan, 12 cases of sporadic hepatitis E occurred from 2004 to 2011. Mie prefecture is located in the central region of Japan, far from the most prevalent regions of hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection in Japan, the north and northeastern part. These 12 cases did not have any common risk factors of HEV infection. We analyzed the molecular epidemiology of the cases in Mie prefecture. We obtained the nucleotide sequences of the HEV strains and analyzed them with the sequences of other HEV strains by phylogenetic and coalescent analyses. Japan-indigenous genotype 3 HEV strains were divided into two major subtypes, namely, 3a and 3b; one minor subtype, 3e; and a few other unassigned lineages. The Japan-indigenous subtype 3e strains were closely related to European subtype 3e HEV strains and were comparatively rare in Japan; however, eight strains of the 12 cases we examined belonged to subtype 3e, indicating a close phylogenetic relationship, despite the lack of common risk factors. Coalescent analyses indicated that the Mie 3e strains seemed to have intruded into Mie prefecture about 10. years ago. Sporadic acute hepatitis E cases caused by the 3e strains occurred consistently from 2004 to 2011 in Mie prefecture. This is the first report of unexpected persistent occurrence of hepatitis by the European-type genotype 3 HEV, subtype 3e, in a country outside of Europe. Phylogenetic and coalescent analyses traced the history of the indigenization of the Mie 3e strains from Europe. Because hepatitis E cases caused by 3e strains are relatively rare in Japan, molecular evolutionary analyses of HEV infection in Mie prefecture is important for preventing a future hepatitis endemic or epidemic by 3e strains in Japan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1524-1534
Number of pages11
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10-2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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