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Int J Artif Organs. 2004 Oct;27(10):842-7.

Hepatitis E virus antibodies in hemodialysis patients: an epidemiological survey in central Greece.

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University of Thessalia, School of Medicine, Larissa - Greece.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the causative agent for enteric non-A, non-B hepatitis. Transmission is mainly via the fecal-oral route but the possibility of an additional parenteric transmission has been raised. Patients undergoing chronic hemodialysis (HD) have an increased risk of exposure to blood transmitted agents. Previous studies concerning prevalence of antibodies to HEV (anti-HEV) among HD patients gave conflicting results. The aim of the study presented here was to determine the prevalence of anti-HEV among HD patients of a well-defined semi-rural region in central Greece (Thessalia region). All patients (n=351, 234 males, mean age 60+/-14 years) who were being treated in the HD units of central Greece (n=5) during 2001 were tested for anti-HEV antibody. Two commercially available specific solid-phase enzyme-linked immunoassays were applied for anti-HEV detection. Hepatitis B virus markers, antibodies to HCV, HIV and HTLV were also screened in all patients by commercially available assays. Serum aminotransferase (AST, ALT) levels were measured by spectrophotometry. 17 anti-HEV-positive patients were found and prevalence was 4.8%, varying from 1.8 - 9.8% in the various HD units. Prevalence of HBsAg and anti-HCV was 5.7% (2.9 - 15%) and 23.6% (11.5 - 36.2%) respectively. The anti-HEV prevalence was increased compared to healthy blood donors in Greece (0.26%, p < 0.01). The highest prevalence of anti-HEV was seen at the HD unit of the General Hospital of Karditsa (9.8%). Risk factors for anti-HEV antibody were not identified: no association was found between anti-HEV positivity and age or sex, duration of HD, hepatitis B or C virus infection markers, previously elevated aminotransferase levels or history of transfusion. Our investigation of HEV infection in the cohort of HD patients in central Greece showed that the prevalence of anti-HEV was greater than in healthy blood donors. There was no association to blood borne infections (HBV, HCV). The high prevalence of anti-HEV we found in one HD unit was probably related to a local infection in the past. However, long-term prospective studies are needed in an attempt to identify whether intra-unit factors are also responsible for the increased prevalence of serologic markers of HEV infection among HD patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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