Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, it is unknown whether hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is a common precipitating event of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF).
Aims: To estimate the prevalence of HEV infection in general population and assess whether HEV is a common trigger of ACLF in cirrhotic patients in The Gambia, West Africa.
Methods: We first conducted an HEV sero-survey in healthy volunteers. We then tested cirrhotic patients with ACLF (cases) and compensated cirrhosis (controls) for anti-HEV IgG as a marker of exposure to HEV, and anti-HEV IgA and HEV RNA as a marker of recent infection. We also described the characteristics and survival of the ACLF cases and controls.
Results: In the healthy volunteers (n = 204), 13.7% (95% CI: 9.6-19.2) were positive for anti-HEV IgG, and none had positive HEV viraemia. After adjusting for age and sex, the following were associated with positive anti-HEV IgG: being a Christian, a farmer, drinking water from wells, handling pigs and eating pork. In 40 cases (median age: 45 years, 72.5% male) and 71 controls (39 years, 74.6% male), ≥70% were infected with hepatitis B virus. Although hepatitis B flare and sepsis were important precipitating events of ACLF, none had marker of acute HEV. ACLF cases had high (70.0%) 28-day mortality.
Conclusions: Hepatitis E virus infection is endemic in The Gambia, where both faecal-oral route (contaminated water) and zoonotic transmission (pigs/pork meat) may be important. However, acute HEV was not a common cause of acute-on-chronic liver failure in The Gambia.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.