Hepatitis E: an emerging global disease - from discovery towards control and cure
Hepatitis E is a systemic disease affecting the liver predominantly and caused by infection with the hepatitis E virus (HEV). HEV has marked genetic heterogeneity and is known to infect several animal species including pigs, boar, deer, mongoose, rabbit, camel, chicken, rats, ferret, bats and cutthroat trout. HEV is the sole member of the family Hepeviridae and has been divided into 2 genera: Orthohepevirus (mammalian and avian HEV) and Piscihepevirus (trout HEV). Human HEVs included within the genus Orthohepevirus are designated Orthohepevirus A (isolates from human, pig, wild boar, deer, mongoose, rabbit and camel). Hepatitis E is an important public health concern, and an estimated one-third of the world population has been infected with HEV. In recent years, autochthonous hepatitis E is recognized as a clinical problem in industrialized countries. Several animal species especially domestic swine, wild boar and wild deer are reservoirs of genotype HEV-3 and HEV-4 in these countries. Human infections occur through intake of uncooked or undercooked meat of the infected animals and pig livers or sausages made from these livers and sold in supermarkets. HEV can be transmitted through blood and blood component transfusions, and donor screening for HEV is under serious consideration. Chronic hepatitis E resulting in rapidly progressive liver cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease has been described in organ transplant patients. Ribavirin monotherapy attains sustained virological response in most patients. HEV 239 vaccine has been marketed in China and its long-term efficacy over four and a half years reported.