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Drugs. 2004;64(14):1517-31.

Hepatitis E vaccines: progress and prospects.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University Clinic Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 15, A-8036 Graz, Austria.


Hepatitis E accounts for the major part of enterally transmitted non-A, non-B hepatitis worldwide. Its agent, the hepatitis E virus (HEV), is a small, single-stranded RNA virus. Only one serotype of HEV is recognised. Infection results in protective immunity with long-lived neutralising antibodies. In developing countries with poor sanitary conditions and high population density, hepatitis E causes water-borne epidemics with substantial mortality rates in pregnant women. In addition, more than 50% of cases of acute hepatic failure and sporadic acute hepatitis are due to hepatitis E. The overall prevalence rates of antibodies to the HEV in populations native to these areas rarely exceed 25%. Hence, many individuals remain susceptible to hepatitis E infection, making hepatitis E an important public health concern. In this context, the development of an HEV vaccine is warranted. Because HEV does not grow adequately in cell cultures the development of a vaccine based on inactivated or attenuated whole-virus particles is not feasible. HEV vaccines currently under study are based on recombinant proteins derived from immunogenic parts of the HEV capsid gene. Other approaches such as DNA-based vaccines or transgenic tomatoes have also been developed. Several recombinant protein-based vaccines elicited neutralising antibodies and protective immunity in vaccinated non-human primates. One such vaccine has passed phase I trial and is currently under further evaluation in field trials. Even so, several questions remain to be answered before vaccination programmes could be implemented.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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