Identification of a Novel Variant of Hepatitis E Virus in Italy

J Med Virol. 1999 Apr;57(4):356-60. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9071(199904)57:4<356::aid-jmv5>;2-d.


Hepatitis E infection is typically associated with areas in which hepatitis E virus (HEV) is endemic. Except for a few cases in Europe and in the United States, acute hepatitis E is usually associated with travel to endemic areas. We set out to determine the etiologic role of HEV in acute non-A-C hepatitis in Italy. The presence of HEV-RNA and antibody was determined in 218 patients diagnosed with acute viral non-A-C hepatitis. Acute hepatitis E infection was defined by the presence of HEV-RNA in sera and positivity for IgM anti-HEV and seroconversion to IgG anti-HEV. Acute hepatitis E was found in 10.1% of the patients with acute non-A-C, with 95.5% exhibiting a benign course. A more severe course was observed in a patient co-infected with HAV and HEV. Most cases were travelers to endemic areas, although 18.2% reported no travel. One patient was from a household with an infected patient. Sequence analyses of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) product derived from a patient who never visited endemic areas, identified an isolate that is divergent significantly from all reported isolates of HEV (79.5-85.8% nucleotide identity). Evidence from this study suggests that HEV accounts for approximately 10% of acute non-A-C viral hepatitis in Italy, diagnosed generally in travelers returning from endemic areas. However, the identification of a new HEV variant in an individual who never indicated travel or contact with individuals associated with endemic areas, suggests that this virus may be native to Italy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feces / virology
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Hepatitis Antibodies / blood
  • Hepatitis E / virology*
  • Hepatitis E virus / classification*
  • Hepatitis E virus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis E virus / isolation & purification
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / virology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Hepatitis Antibodies
  • RNA, Viral