Clinical burden of hepatitis E virus infection in a tertiary care center in Flanders, Belgium

J Clin Virol. 2018 Jun:103:8-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Mar 19.


Background: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is increasingly recognized as a cause of hepatitis in developed countries. A high HEV IgG seroprevalence in humans and pigs is reported as well as sporadic clinical cases of autochtonous HEV but there are currently no data available on the clinical burden of HEV in Belgium.

Objectives: The objective of the current study was to evaluate the actual clinical burden of HEV infections in our tertiary care center in Flanders, Belgium.

Study design: In the setting of Ghent University Hospital, patients were assessed for the presence of HEV IgG and IgM as well as HEV RNA if no other cause was found for one of the following clinical presentations: a) elevation of liver enzymes in post-liver transplant; b) suspicion of acute or toxic hepatitis; c) unexplainable elevation of liver enzymes; d) cirrhosis with acute-on-chronic exacerbation.

Results: In a period of 39 months (January 2011-April 2014) 71 patients were enrolled. HEV IgG was found positive in 13 (18,3%) patients; HEV IgM in 6 patients (8,5%) and HEV RNA in 4 (5,6%) patients. All HEV IgM/RNA positive patients were male, aged 41-63, and classified in the clinical groups a), b) or d). HEV IgG seroprevalence was slightly higher but not significantly different from the seroprevalence in the general population in this region in Belgium previously reported to be 14% (p-value 0.41) by our group.

Conclusions: HEV should be considered as a cause of liver pathology especially in middle-aged men with elevation of liver enzymes.

Keywords: Belgium; Clinical impact; Hepatitis E virus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hepatitis Antibodies / blood*
  • Hepatitis E / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis E / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis E / pathology
  • Hepatitis E virus / immunology
  • Hepatitis E virus / isolation & purification*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Viral / blood*
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Young Adult


  • Hepatitis Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • RNA, Viral