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1.  Detection of serum antibodies to hepatitis E virus in domestic pigs in Italy using a recombinant swine HEV capsid protein 
BMC Veterinary Research  2014;10:133.
The hepatitis E virus (HEV) has been detected in both humans and animals, particularly pigs, worldwide. Several evidences, including human infection following consumption of raw contaminated meat, suggest a zoonotic transmission of HEV. In Italy, large circulation of genotype 3 HEV has been reported in swine, and recent studies have confirmed the involvement of this genotype in autochthonous human cases.
In this study 111 sera collected from healthy pigs in two Italian regions were tested for anti-HEV IgG antibodies. For specific HEV antibody detection in swine, we developed ELISA and Western blotting methods, using a truncated capsid (ORF2) protein lacking the first 111 amino acids of a swine HEV genotype 3 strain. The ORF2-based ELISA revealed anti-HEV antibodies in 104 out of 111 pigs compared with 102 detected with a commercial ELISA kit. A lower number of sera reacted with the recombinant ORF2 protein in a Western blotting format (81/111). Using a Latent class analysis (LCA), the estimated sensitivities for ELISA-ORF2 and ELISA-kit tests were 0.961 and 0.936, respectively, whereas specificities were 0.599 and 0.475. The estimated sensitivity of Western blotting was 0.775, and the specificity was 0.944.
The overall results confirm the high prevalence of HEV seropositive healthy pigs in Italy. Through comparisons with a commercial ELISA test, the swine genotype 3 HEV antigen produced in this study was proven suitable to detect anti-HEV antibodies in pig sera by both ELISA and Western Blotting.
PMCID: PMC4073516  PMID: 24934984
Hepatitis E virus; Swine; ORF2; ELISA; Western blotting
2.  Reproduction in porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) seropositive gilts inseminated with PCV2b spiked semen 
Since 1999, field evidence of transplacental infection by porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) and reproductive failure has been reported in pigs. The objective of this study was to evaluate the clinical and pathological consequences of PCV2 infection in conventional PCV2-seropositive gilts by insemination with PCV2b-spiked semen.
Six PCV2 seropositive gilts were inseminated with PCV2b-supplemented semen (infected) and three animals with semen and cell culture medium (controls). Only three out of the six infected animals were pregnant by ultrasonography on day 29 after insemination, while two out of the three controls were pregnant. One control gilt aborted on day 23 after insemination but not due to PVC2. Viraemia was demonstrated in four out of six infected and in one control gilt that became infected with PCV2a. Anti-PCV2 antibody titres showed dynamic variations in the infected group throughout the study. Among infected gilts, the animal with the lowest anti-PCV2 titre (1/100) at the beginning of the experiment and another that reached a similar low value during the experiment showed evident seroconversion over time and had also PCV2 positive foetuses. One placenta displayed mild focal necrosis of the chorionic epithelium positively stained by immunohistochemistry for PCV2 antigen.
PCV2-seropositive gilts can be infected with PCV2 after intrauterine exposure and low maternal antibody titre may increase the probability of a foetal infection.
PMCID: PMC3509407  PMID: 22935352
Swine; Porcine circovirus type 2; Semen; Infection
3.  Hepatitis E Virus in Pork Production Chain in Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain, 2010 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(8):1282-1289.
Processing does not substantially abate endogenous virus.
We evaluated the prevalence of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in the pork production chain in Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain during 2010. A total of 337 fecal, liver, and meat samples from animals at slaughterhouses were tested for HEV by real-time quantitative PCR. Overall, HEV was higher in Italy (53%) and Spain (39%) than in Czech Republic (7.5%). HEV was detected most frequently in feces in Italy (41%) and Spain (39%) and in liver (5%) and meat (2.5%) in Czech Republic. Of 313 sausages sampled at processing and point of sale, HEV was detected only in Spain (6%). HEV sequencing confirmed only g3 HEV strains. Indicator virus (porcine adenovirus) was ubiquitous in fecal samples and absent in liver samples and was detected in 1 slaughterhouse meat sample. At point of sale, we found porcine adenovirus in sausages (1%–2%). The possible dissemination of HEV and other fecal viruses through pork production demands containment measures.
PMCID: PMC3414029  PMID: 22840221
Hepatitis E virus; swine; pork food chain; molecular detection; reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction; zoonoses; food safety; viruses; Czech Republic; Italy; Spain
4.  Prevalence and transmission of hepatitis E virus in domestic swine populations in different European countries 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:190.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotype 3 and 4 can cause liver disease in human and has its main reservoir in pigs. HEV investigations in pigs worldwide have been performed but there is still a lack of information on the infection dynamics in pig populations.
The HEV transmission dynamics in commercial pig farms in six different European countries was studied. The data collected show prevalence in weaners ranging from 8% to 30%. The average HEV prevalence in growers was between 20% and 44%. The fatteners prevalence ranged between 8% and 73%. Sows prevalence was similar in all countries. Boar faeces were tested for HEV only in Spain and Czech Republic, and the prevalence was 4.3% and 3.5% respectively. The collected data sets were analyzed using a recently developed model to estimate the transmission dynamics of HEV in the different countries confirming that HEV is endemic in pig farms.
This study has been performed using similar detection methods (real time RT-PCR) for all samples and the same model (SIR model) to analyse the data. Furthermore, it describes HEV prevalence and within-herd transmission dynamics in European Countries (EU): Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and United Kingdom, confirming that HEV is circulating in pig farms from weaners to fatteners and that the reproductive number mathematical defined as R0 is in the same range for all countries studied.
PMCID: PMC3479409  PMID: 22534364
Hepatitis E virus; Foodborne disease; Pork; Foodchain; PCR; Modeling; Prevalence; European countries
5.  PCV2-DNA in formalin-fixed and paraffin embedded lymph nodes of wild boar (Sus scrofa ssp. scrofa): one sampling approach for two laboratory techniques 
Superficial inguinal lymph nodes from 72 wild boars examined in a previous immunohistochemical (IHC) study on porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) were selected for a PCV2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Four of these lymph nodes were PCV2-IHC strongly positive with PMWS histological lesions (outcome 1), 6 weak to mild PCV2-IHC positive without PMWS histological lesions (outcome 2) and 62 PCV2-IHC negative. Considering IHC the gold standard for diagnosis, the aims of the study were to evaluate the suitability of the PCV2-DNA extraction from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue and the sensitivity and specificity of PCR under two IHC interpretations criteria: (A) the sample was considered positive if the result was outcome 1; (B) the sample was considered positive if the result was outcome 1 or 2. Under (A) criteria, sensitivity and specificity of PCR were 100% and 89.7%, respectively; the Cohen's Kappa coefficient was 0.49. Under (B) criteria, sensitivity and specificity of PCR were 80.0% and 95.2%, respectively; the Cohen's Kappa coefficient was 0.72. The high Cohen's Kappa coefficient under the (B) interpretative criteria indicates good agreement between the two methods. In conclusion, 1) DNA extracted from FFPE specimens of wild boar is suitable for PCR and further represents a screening test for PCV2/PCVD (PCV2 Diseases) investigations in wild boar as well; 2) routine histological sampling can also be useful for PCV2 virological studies in wild boar.
PMCID: PMC3338405  PMID: 22448643
6.  Can Preening Contribute to Influenza A Virus Infection in Wild Waterbirds? 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11315.
Wild aquatic birds in the Orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes are the main reservoir hosts perpetuating the genetic pool of all influenza A viruses, including pandemic viruses. High viral loads in feces of infected birds permit a fecal-oral route of transmission. Numerous studies have reported the isolation of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) from surface water at aquatic bird habitats. These isolations indicate aquatic environments have an important role in the transmission of AIV among wild aquatic birds. However, the progressive dilution of infectious feces in water could decrease the likelihood of virus/host interactions. To evaluate whether alternate mechanisms facilitate AIV transmission in aquatic bird populations, we investigated whether the preen oil gland secretions by which all aquatic birds make their feathers waterproof could support a natural mechanism that concentrates AIVs from water onto birds' bodies, thus, representing a possible source of infection by preening activity. We consistently detected both viral RNA and infectious AIVs on swabs of preened feathers of 345 wild mallards by using reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and virus-isolation (VI) assays. Additionally, in two laboratory experiments using a quantitative real-time (qR) RT-PCR assay, we demonstrated that feather samples (n = 5) and cotton swabs (n = 24) experimentally impregnated with preen oil, when soaked in AIV-contaminated waters, attracted and concentrated AIVs on their surfaces. The data presented herein provide information that expands our understanding of AIV ecology in the wild bird reservoir system.
PMCID: PMC2892510  PMID: 20593026

Results 1-6 (6)