Hepatitis E is rare in Japan but is occurring more frequently than previously thought. To investigate whether de novo subclinical infection of hepatitis E virus (HEV) has recently increased in Japan, HEV RNA was assayed in serum samples obtained from 4019 Japanese voluntary blood donors with alanine aminotransferase (ALT) of ≥61 IU/l, who are likely to have ongoing HEV infection, during 1991–2006. The overall rates of IgG-class antibody to HEV (anti-HEV IgG), anti-HEV IgM/IgA and HEV RNA among 3185 donors in 2004–2006 were comparable with those among 594 donors in 1998 (5.3 vs. 5.2%, 0.2 vs. 0.5%, and 0.2 vs. 0.3%, respectively). Among blood donors with ALT ≥ 201 IU/l in three groups according to the year of blood collection (1991–1995 ( n = 156), 1996–1999 ( n = 116) and 2004–2006 ( n = 61)), there were no appreciable differences in the prevalence of anti-HEV IgG (5.8, 4.3, and 6.6%, respectively), anti-HEV IgM/IgA (1.9, 3.4, and 3.3%, respectively) and HEV RNA (1.3, 3.4, and 3.3%, respectively). The eleven HEV isolates obtained in the present study differed from each other by 1.7–22.8% in the ORF2 sequence and segregated into genotype 3 or 4. The occurrence rate of subclinical infection with divergent HEV strains has essentially remained unchanged during 1991–2006 in Japan.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 1, 2007
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