Genetic variability of porcine pegivirus in pigs from Europe and China and insights into tissue tropism.
Pegiviruses belong to the family Flaviviridae and have been found in humans and other mammalian species. To date eleven different pegivirus species (Pegivirus A-K) have been described. However, little is known about the tissue tropism and replication of pegiviruses. In 2016, a so far unknown porcine pegivirus (PPgV, Pegivirus K) was described and persistent infection in the host, similar to human pegivirus, was reported. In this study, qRT-PCR, phylogenetic analyses and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) were implemented to detect and quantify PPgV genome content in serum samples from domestic pigs from Europe and Asia, in tissue and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples and wild boar serum samples from Germany. PPgV was detectable in 2.7% of investigated domestic pigs from Europe and China (viral genome load 2.4 × 102 to 2.0 × 106 PPgV copies/ml), while all wild boar samples were tested negative. Phylogenetic analyses revealed pairwise nucleotide identities >90% among PPgVs. Finally, PPgV was detected in liver, thymus and PBMCs by qRT-PCR and FISH, suggesting liver- and lymphotropism. Taken together, this study provides first insights into the tissue tropism of PPgV and shows its distribution and genetic variability in Europe and China.