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Molecular Detection of Hepatitis E Virus in Layer Chickens: A Possible Public Health Risk in Pakistan

Molecular Detection of Hepatitis E Virus in Layer Chickens: A Possible Public Health Risk in Pakistan

Tahir Iqbal1, Umer Rashid1*, Naveed Shahzad2, Amber Afroz1Muhammad Faheem Malik3 and Muhammad Idrees4


1Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Gujrat, Gujrat (50700), Pakistan
2School of Biological Sciences, University of the Punjab, Lahore (54000), Pakistan
3Department of Zoology, University of Gujrat, Gujrat (50700), Pakistan
4Hazara University, Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

*      Corresponding author:



Avian Hepatitis E Virus (aHEV) is a single-stranded positive-sense RNA virus causing hepatitis-splenomegaly syndrome (HSS) in chickens. To the best of our knowledge the circulation of aHEV in chicken has not been studied in Pakistan so far. Therefore, in the present study, we aimed to isolate and identify aHEV from layer chickens of Pakistan. The bile fluids, liver and spleen tissues were collected from overnight dead layer chickens (n = 8) from Pattoki region of Punjab province, Pakistan, during July to August 2016. The RT-PCR showed the amplifications of selected regions of helicase (186 bps, 2769-2954 nt) and capsid (280 bps, 5461-5741 nt) domain in the bile fluids of two birds. The histological data demonstrated pathological changes in liver and spleen tissues of layer chickens positive for viral RNA. The extensive phylogenetic analysis on the basis of partial helicase domain (ORF1) and capsid protein (ORF2) revealed clustering of Pakistani aHEV (Pak aHEV) strains with members of Orthohepevirus B species. However, Pak aHEV strains were highly divergent from other known members within Orthohepevirus B suggesting as novel aHEV strains circulating in the population of layer chickens in the country. Detection of HEV in layer chickens may pose public health risk in context of zoonosis and food borne transmission if aHEV emerges as zoonotic HEV. 

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology


Pakistan J. Zool., Vol. 56, Iss. 4, pp. 1501-2000


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