Hepatitis E.Hepatology. 2011 Dec; 54(6):2218-26.Hep
Hepatitis E refers to liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), a small, nonenveloped virus with a single-stranded RNA genome. The virus has four genotypes, but only one serotype. Genotypes 1 and 2 exclusively infect humans, whereas genotypes 3 and 4 also infect pigs and several other mammalian species. Though HEV does not grow well in cell culture, several aspects of its biology and pathogenesis have been worked out using animal models and cell transfection studies, and by analogy with other related viruses. HEV itself appears noncytopathic, and the liver injury during hepatitis E may be mediated by the host immune response. In areas with poor sanitation, HEV infection is common and presents as outbreaks and also as sporadic cases with acute self-limited hepatitis. The transmission is feco-oral, usually through contaminated drinking water. The disease often affects young adults and is particularly severe among pregnant women and persons with preexisting liver cirrhosis. In the developed world, the disease is being increasingly recognized. It occurs as occasional sporadic cases, most often among elderly men with coexisting illnesses. These appear to be related to zoonotic transmission. Chronic infection is known among immunosuppressed persons in these regions and may progress to liver cirrhosis. Serological tests for diagnosis of HEV exposure and recent infection, namely immunoglobulin (Ig)G and IgM anti-HEV, respectively, need further improvement in sensitivity and specificity, particularly when used in developed countries. Two recombinant protein vaccines have undergone successful human trials, but are not yet commercially available. Recent development of cell-culture methods for HEV should allow a better understanding of this enigmatic agent.