To evaluate the usefulness of detection of antibodies to hepatitis E virus (HEV) to screen for viraemic pigs, serum samples obtained from 1425 1-6-month-old pigs in Japan were tested for swine HEV RNA and IgG, IgM and IgA classes of anti-HEV antibody. Fifty-five (5%) of the 1071 2-5-month-old pigs were positive for swine HEV RNA, but none of 218 1-month-old pigs or 136 6-month-old pigs had detectable HEV RNA. The prevalence of anti-HEV IgG among the viraemic pigs (67%, 37/55) was similar to that among the non-viraemic pigs (55%, 757/1370) and the prevalence of anti-HEV IgM among the viraemic pigs and non-viraemic pigs was 7 and 3%, respectively. However, anti-HEV IgA was detected significantly more frequently among viraemic pigs than among non-viraemic pigs (55 vs 10%, P < 0.0001). These results suggest that anti-HEV IgA is more useful than anti-HEV IgM to screen for viraemic pigs.
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