In laboratory animal facilities, monkeys and pigs are used for animal experiments, but the details of hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection in these animals are unknown. The risk of infection from laboratory animals to humans has become a concern; therefore, much attention should be paid to the handling of these animals during their care and use, including surgical procedures performed on infected animals. In this connection, serum samples collected from 916 monkeys and 77 pigs kept in 23 animal facilities belonging to the Japanese Association of Laboratory Animal Facilities of National University Corporations (JALAN) and the Japanese Association of Laboratory Animal Facilities of Public and Private Universities (JALAP) in Japan were examined for the purpose of detecting antibodies to HEV and HEV RNA by using ELISA and RT-PCR, respectively. One hundred and seven serum samples of 916 (11.7%) monkeys were positive for anti-HEV IgG, and 7 and 17 serum samples of 916 (0.8% and 5.3%) monkeys were positive for anti-HEV IgM and IgA, respectively. Thirty-six samples from 62 (58.1%) farm pigs were positive for anti-HEV IgG, whereas all samples tested from miniature pigs were negative (0/15, 0%). Seven samples from 62 (9.1%) farm pigs and 7 samples from 916 (0.8%) monkeys were positive for IgM antibody, but these HEV-IgM antibody positive serum samples were HEV-RNA negative by RT-PCR. The IgM antibody positive rate (9.1%) of farm pigs was much higher than that of monkeys (0.8%). These results suggest the relative levels of risk of HEV infection from these animals to animal handlers and researchers who work with them in laboratory animal facilities.
2008 Japanese Association for Laboratory Animal Science