Background: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections can lead to chronic hepatitis in immunocompromised patients. We have investigated the risk factors for HEV infection among solid-organ transplant recipients and the characteristics of these infections.
Methods: We performed serological tests, quantified the virus, and genotyped the virus in plasma samples. We performed a case-control study with HEV-infected patients and control participants matched for sex and age who were recruited from a population of solid-organ transplant recipients with no markers of HEV infection.
Results: We investigated 38 consecutive cases of HEV genotype 3 infection. Twenty-two (58%) of these 38 patients developed a chronic infection. The acute-phase aminotransferase levels were higher in the patients who cleared the virus than in those who developed chronic infections. The anti-HEV immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M profiles and HEV RNA concentration in patients who cleared the virus were similar to those in patients who developed a chronic infection. A logistic regression analysis of 37 case patients and 148 control participants indicated that the only factor independently associated with HEV infection was the consumption of game meat (68% of case patients vs 47% of control participants; odds ratio, 2.32; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-5.15).
Conclusion: Immunocompromised patients should avoid eating insufficiently cooked game meat or pork products so as to reduce the risk of HEV infection and chronic liver disease.