Hepatitis E virus in Cuba: A cross-sectional serological and virological study in pigs and people occupationally exposed to pigs

Maria Caridad Montalvo Villalba*, Chantal J. Snoeck, Licel de los Angeles Rodriguez Lay, Aurélie Sausy, Dayesi Hernández López, Marite Bello Corredor, Barbara Marrero Sanchéz, Judith M. Hübschen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Surveillance of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in risk groups is an important strategy to monitor its circulation pattern and to timely detect changes thereof. The aims of this cross-sectional study were to estimate the prevalence of HEV infections in pigs and humans from different regions of the country, to identify risk factors for increasing anti-HEV IgG prevalence and to characterize HEV strains. The presence of anti-HEV antibodies was assessed by commercial ELISA in serum samples from the general population, farm and slaughterhouse employees, as well as pigs sampled in the three regions of Cuba from February to September 2016. Overall, individuals with occupational exposure to swine or swine products (70/248, 28.2%) were 4 times more likely to be seropositive compared to the general population (25/285, 8.7%; OR: 4.18; p <.001). Within the risk group, risk factors included age, number of years working in a professional activity with direct exposure to swine, geographic region and distance between residence and closest professional swine setting, while wearing gloves had a protective effect. Prevalence of total anti-HEV antibodies in swine was 88.2% (165/187) and HEV RNA was detected by real-time RT-PCR in 9.2% (16/173) swine stools. All HEV strains sequenced clustered within genotype 3. Some strains clearly belonged to subtype 3a, while another group of strains was related with subtypes 3b and 3 k but partial HEV sequences did not allow unequivocal subtype assignment. These findings suggest that the high HEV exposure in Cuban individuals with swine-related occupations could be due to enzootic HEV in certain regions, direct contact with infectious animals or their products as well as environmental contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-68
Number of pages11
JournalZoonoses and Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • hepatitis E virus
  • occupational exposure
  • phylogeny
  • risk factors
  • serology
  • swine


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