Currently, the infection with the hepatitis E virus represents the most frequent cause for acute hepatitis and jaundice in the world. According to WHO estimations, around two billion people, representing one third of the world's population, live in endemic areas for HEV and, therefore, are at risk of infection. In developed countries, the circulation of the virus in both human and animal (swine, boar, deer) sewage has been confirmed; however, the incidence rate is low compared to that of developing countries where outbreaks of acute hepatitis transmitted via the fecal-oral route are originated, more frequently in the flooding season or after natural disasters, combined with deficient sanitary conditions. There are currently 4 known genotypes of HEV. Genotypes 1 and 2 are isolated in all human epidemic outbreaks in developing countries, while genotypes 3 and 4 are isolated not only in humans but also in animals, in both developing and industrialized countries. These data support genotypes 3 and 4 having zoonotic nature. The diagnosis of this disease is based in the detection of anti-HEV IgG and IgM in blood serum using enzyme-linked immunosorbent methods. However, the method that best confirms the diagnosis is the RT-PCR, which detects HEV RNA in blood serum and also provides the genotype. The clinical course is generally that of an acute hepatitis which in some cases may require hospitalization and that, in transplant patients or HIV infected individuals can become a chronic hepatitis. Furthermore, the virus constitutes an important risk for pregnant women. The hepatitis E can present a wide range of symptoms, from a subclinical case to chronic liver disease with extrahepatic manifestations. For this reason, the diagnostic is challenging if no differential diagnosis is included. There is no specific antiviral drug for hepatitis E, but satisfactory results have been observed in some patients treated with pegylated interferon alfa2a and/or ribavirin. This revision is an update of all the molecular, epidemiological, clinic and preventive knowledge on this emergent disease up to date.
Keywords: HEV; Hepatitis E; Hepatitis E virus; Zoonotic disease.
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