• Assessment of cross-species transmission of hepatitis C virus-related non-primate hepacivirus in a population of humans at high risk of exposure.

      Pfaender, Stephanie; Walter, Stephanie; Todt, Daniel; Behrendt, Patrick; Doerrbecker, Juliane; Wölk, Benno; Engelmann, Michael; Gravemann, Ute; Seltsam, Axel; Steinmann, Joerg; et al. (2015-09)
      The recent discovery of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related viruses in different animal species has raised new speculations regarding the origin of HCV and the possibility of a zoonotic source responsible for the endemic HCV transmission. As a consequence, these new findings prompt questions regarding the potential for cross-species transmissions of hepaciviruses. The closest relatives to HCV discovered to date are the non-primate hepaciviruses (NPHVs), which have been described to infect horses. To evaluate the risk of a potential zoonotic transmission, we analysed NPHV RNA and antibodies in humans with occupational exposure to horses in comparison with a low-risk group. Both groups were negative for NPHV RNA, even though low seroreactivities against various NPHV antigens could be detected irrespective of the group. In conclusion, we did not observe evidence of NPHV transmission between horses and humans.
    • Differential Infection Patterns and Recent Evolutionary Origins of Equine Hepaciviruses in Donkeys.

      Walter, Stephanie; Rasche, Andrea; Moreira-Soto, Andrés; Pfaender, Stephanie; Bletsa, Magda; Corman, Victor Max; Aguilar-Setien, Alvaro; García-Lacy, Fernando; Hans, Aymeric; Todt, Daniel; et al. (2017-01-01)
      The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major human pathogen. Genetically related viruses in animals suggest a zoonotic origin of HCV. The closest relative of HCV is found in horses (termed equine hepacivirus [EqHV]). However, low EqHV genetic diversity implies relatively recent acquisition of EqHV by horses, making a derivation of HCV from EqHV unlikely. To unravel the EqHV evolutionary history within equid sister species, we analyzed 829 donkeys and 53 mules sampled in nine European, Asian, African, and American countries by molecular and serologic tools for EqHV infection. Antibodies were found in 278 animals (31.5%), and viral RNA was found in 3 animals (0.3%), all of which were simultaneously seropositive. A low RNA prevalence in spite of high seroprevalence suggests a predominance of acute infection, a possible difference from the mostly chronic hepacivirus infection pattern seen in horses and humans. Limitation of transmission due to short courses of infection may explain the existence of entirely seronegative groups of animals. Donkey and horse EqHV strains were paraphyletic and 97.5 to 98.2% identical in their translated polyprotein sequences, making virus/host cospeciation unlikely. Evolutionary reconstructions supported host switches of EqHV between horses and donkeys without the involvement of adaptive evolution. Global admixture of donkey and horse hepaciviruses was compatible with anthropogenic alterations of EqHV ecology. In summary, our findings do not support EqHV as the origin of the significantly more diversified HCV. Identification of a host system with predominantly acute hepacivirus infection may enable new insights into the chronic infection pattern associated with HCV.