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Hepatitis E virus genotype 3 (HEV-3) is widely distributed throughout Europe, with incidence of infections increasing in many countries. Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have reported the distribution of HEV-3 subtypes in cohorts of patients with hepatic disease.


To describe the distribution of the HEV-3 subtypes in Spain at national and autonomous community (AC) levels between 2009 and 2019. The study was also extended to Andorra.


Of 5,197 samples received by the National Reference Laboratory during the study, 409 were HEV-RNA-positive. Among these, 294 (71.9%) were further typed based on an ORF2 sequence fragment, or, for a subset of 74, based on the full-coding genome sequence.


HEV-3 was detected in 291 samples. The dominant subtype in Spain was HEV-3f (88.3%; 257/291), which occurred in all ACs, with no change in detection level over time. Within this subtype, three subclusters were characterised: HEV-3f-B, HEV-3f-A1 and HEV-3f-A2. The second most common HEV subtype was the recently described HEV-3m (7%; 21/291), with two subclusters identified: HEV-3m-A, which has been known since 2010, and HEV-3m-B, since 2014. The third most encountered subtype was HEV-3c (4.1%; 12/291), with a frequency not increasing over time, unlike observations in some European countries.


The importance of the surveillance of HEV-3 subtype and subcluster circulation is yet to be assessed. This surveillance together with the comprehensive epidemiological characterisation of clinical cases, could support the identification of sources of transmission and the establishment of control measures nationally and internationally.


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