Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a zoonotic infection, with consumption of processed pork products thought to be the major route of transmission in England. The clinical features of HEV infection range from asymptomatic infection to mild hepatitis to fulminant liver failure. Persistent, chronic hepatitis is increasingly recognized in immunocompromised patients. Infection via HEV-containing blood components and organs has been reported and measures to reduce this transmission risk were introduced into the blood service in England in 2016. We report here the sequence and phylogenetic findings from investigations into a transmission event from an HEV-infected donor to two recipients. Phylogenetic analysis of HEV genome sequence fragments obtained by Sanger sequencing showed that, whilst most of the sequences from both recipients' samples grouped with the sequence from the blood donor sample, the relationship of five sequences from recipient 2 were unresolved. Analysis of Illumina short-read deep sequence data demonstrated the presence of two divergent viral populations in the donor's sample that were also present in samples from both recipients. A clear phylogenetic relationship was established, indicating a probable transmission of both populations from the donor to each of the immunocompromised recipients. This study demonstrates the value of the application of new sequencing technologies combined with bioinformatic data analysis when Sanger sequencing is not able to clarify a proper phylogenetic relationship in the investigation of transmission events.
- hepatitis E virus