Issue: 2012 > August > review

Chronic hepatitis E after solid organ transplantation

A. de Niet, H.L. Zaaijer, I. ten Berge, C.J. Weegink, H.W. Reesink, U. Beuers


Large outbreaks of acute hepatitis E, caused by hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotypes 1 and 2, are known from developing countries with suboptimal sanitation infrastructure. An increasing incidence of HEV infections is being reported in industrialised countries, caused mainly by HEV genotypes 3 and 4, which are often found among pigs. Recent evidence suggests that in immunocompromised patients about 50% of the cases of acute hepatitis E evolve to chronic hepatitis with rapid progression to cirrhosis. Thus, HEV should be considered a cause of chronic hepatitis in immunocompromised patients, such as solid organ transplant recipients. Because an antibody response to HEV may be absent in these patients, an HEV RNA test should be carried out when serum liver tests are elevated over months. In small case series, ribavirin has been shown to represent a promising treatment option for chronic HEV infection. To increase the awareness for HEV infection in immunocompromised patients, a representative case report of an HEV-infected renal transplant recipient with chronic hepatitis E, successfully treated with ribavirin, is presented. Studies are required to determine the optimal duration of ribavirin therapy and to assess outcome for solid organ transplant recipients with chronic HEV infection.