Hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotype 3 infection frequently progresses to chronic disease with persisting HEV viremia in immunocompromised patients. Here, we evaluated the prevalence of HEV infection in renal allograft recipients and investigated the efficacy and tolerability of ribavirin monotherapy.
A total of 947 recipients on average 8.7 years post transplant were screened for anti-HEV IgG, IgM and HEV-RNA. Sixteen HEV-viremic renal allograft recipients were treated with ribavirin for 12 weeks. HEV-RNA concentration, laboratory and clinical parameters were assessed at baseline, during therapy and 12 weeks after treatment cessation. HEV-genotyping was performed in all HEV-viremic patients.
Past HEV infection was detected serologically in 18% of the renal allograft recipients. Ongoing HEV replication was found in 16 recipients (all genotype 3). Unanimously, distinct HEV sequences were revealed in all HEV-viremic patients. At the start of ribavirin treatment, median HEV-RNA viral load was 4.3 × 106 (8000-5.0 × 106) IU/mL. Ninety-four percentage of HEV-infected allograft recipients showed a sustained virological response 12 weeks after treatment cessation. Ribavirin treatment was associated with rapid decrease in liver enzymes and rare occurrence of anemia.
Prevalence of active HEV infection is important in renal transplant patients without signs of nosocomial infection. Ribavirin treatment was safe and effective.