Ongoing subclinical infection of hepatitis E virus among blood donors with an elevated alanine aminotransferase level in Japan.J Med Virol. 2007 Jun; 79(6):734-42.JM
Ongoing subclinical infection of hepatitis E virus (HEV) has not been fully studied. In the present study, serum samples were collected from 6700 voluntary blood donors with an elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level of 61-476 IU/l at a Japanese Red Cross Blood Center, and were tested for the presence of IgG, IgM and IgA classes of antibodies to HEV (anti-HEV) by in-house ELISA and HEV RNA by nested RT-PCR. Overall, 479 blood donors (7.1%) were positive for anti-HEV IgG, including 8 donors with anti-HEV IgM and 7 donors with anti-HEV IgA. Among the nine donors with anti-HEV IgM and/or anti-HEV IgA, six had detectable HEV RNA. The presence of HEV RNA was further tested in 10-sample minipools of sera from the remaining 6691 donors, and three donors including one without anti-HEV IgG were found to be positive for HEV RNA. When stratified by ALT level, the prevalence of HEV RNA was significantly higher among the 109 donors with ALT > or = 201 IU/l than among the 6591 donors with ALT of 61-200 IU/l (2.8% vs. 0.1%, P < 0.0001). The HEV isolates obtained from the nine viremic donors segregated into genotype 3, shared a wide range of identities of 85.6-98.5% and were 87.3-93.9% similar to the Japan-indigenous HEV strain (JRA1), in the 412-nucleotide sequence of open reading frame 2. This study suggests that approximately 3% of Japanese individuals with ALT > or = 201 IU/l have ongoing subclinical infection with various HEV strains.