Relevance of chronic hepatitis E in liver transplant recipients: a real-life setting.Transpl Infect Dis. 2015 Aug; 17(4):617-22.TI
The chronic course of hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections in orthotopic liver transplant (OLT) recipients has been described previously, but prospectively collected data are rare. We aimed to study the role of chronic hepatitis E in OLT in a real-life setting. Therefore, 287 adult OLT recipients (169 male [59%], median age 56 years) were prospectively tested by HEV polymerase chain reaction assay (lower level of detection = 10 IU/mL), irrespective of their level of liver enzymes. In 4 patients (1.4%), chronic HEV infection was diagnosed. All 4 patients were male, and their age (median 48.5 years), the time since transplantation (median 45.5 months), and bilirubin level (median 0.6 mg/dL) did not differ significantly from the total cohort. However, alanine transaminase and aspartame transaminase levels were significantly higher in HEV-infected patients (75-646 U/L, median 216 U/L and 68-317 U/L, median 108 U/L) than in non-infected patients (6-617 U/L, median 41 and 6-355 U/L, median 36; P = 0.004 and 0.040, Mann-Whitney test). In 3 patients, liver biopsy was performed and revealed signs of inflammation and chronic liver disease, as enlarged densely infiltrated portal tracts with mild-to-moderate interface hepatitis. All infected patients were treated with ribavirin with the starting dose adjusted to renal function (400-800 mg/day). In 2 patients, dose reduction was necessary. Transaminases normalized in all 4 patients, and all patients cleared their infection within 3 months of ribavirin treatment. However, 1 patient experienced viral relapse 12 weeks after discontinuation. Ribavirin medication was re-started and viral clearance occurred within 8 weeks and persisted. Sequence analysis of the HEV genome of this patient revealed that he was infected with an HEV variant, which recently has been shown to have a reduced response to ribavirin in cell culture. The risk of chronic HEV infections in OLT recipients in low-endemic countries should not be overestimated. No case of chronic hepatitis E was observed in patients with normal liver enzymes, indicating that general screening of all OLT recipients is not necessary. However, if chronic hepatitis E develops, it can be treated efficiently with ribavirin.