Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a non-enveloped single-stranded positive-sense RNA virus, belonging to the Hepeviridae family, resistant to environmental conditions, and transmitted by the consumption of contaminated water. This virus is responsible for both sporadic and epidemic outbreaks, leading to thousands of infections per year in several countries, and is thus considered an emerging disease in Europe and Asia. This study refers to a survey in Portugal during 2019, targeting the detection and eventual quantification of enteric viruses in samples from surface and drinking water. Samples positive for HEV RNA were recurrently found by reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), in both types of matrix. The infectivity of these samples was evaluated in cultured Vero E6 cells and RNA from putative viruses produced in cultures evidencing cytopathic effects and was subjected to RT-qPCR targeting HEV genomic RNA. Our results evidenced the existence of samples positive either for HEV RNA (77.8% in surface water and 66.7% in drinking water) or for infectious HEV (23.0% in surface water and 27.7% in drinking water). These results highlight the need for effective virological control of water for human consumption and activities.
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