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Microbiol Immunol. 2007;51(2):185-91.

Shifting seroepidemiology of hepatitis A in Japan, 1973-2003.

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  • 1Department of Virology II, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Musashi-murayama, Tokyo, Japan.



Hepatitis A infection is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV) contracted through fecal-oral transmission. Life-long immunity is conferred after infection. Improved sanitary conditions have generally resulted in a significant decline in the incidence of hepatitis A. However, a low incidence of infection results in increased HAV susceptibility. The present study investigates the prevalence of anti-HAV antibody and clarifies the current HAV status and HAV susceptibility in Japan at 2003.


A total of 2,430 serum specimens collected during 2003 from Japanese individuals ranging in age from 0-92 years, were tested for anti-HAV antibody using an inhibition enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. All specimens were obtained from the WHO and the National Serum Reference Bank/National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan.


The overall seroprevalence was 12.2%. Anti-HAV antibodies were rarely detected in individuals between 0-44 years of age. Starting from the age of 45-49 years, seropositivity gradually increased through age 65 years and above. Seroprevalence was not affected by gender, and geographic distribution did not affect age-specific seroprevalence until the age of 60 years.


HAV susceptibility in Japan is increasing annually. Particularly, the prevalence of anti-HAV antibody in individuals older than 50 years in 2003 was 50.3%, which is significantly lower than that of corresponding studies in 1994 (74.3%), 1984 (96.9%) and 1973 (96.9%). The growing susceptible population of advanced age results in more frequent HAV infection among them. The surveillance of anti-HAV antibody prevalence is useful for implementing preventive measures and for controlling the spread of HAV.

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