AbstractBACKGROUND & AIMS
Hepatitis E (HEV) can cause acute-on-chronic liver failure in persons with pre-existing liver disease. We investigated whether HEV infection contributes to hepatic decompensation in patients with previously stable, advanced chronic hepatitis C.METHODS
We performed a case–control study using stored serum samples from subjects enrolled in the randomized phase of the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis Trial (n = 1050; mean age, 51 y; 70% male; 40% with cirrhosis at baseline). Cases were subjects who developed hepatic decompensation within a 24-week period. Controls (3 per case) were subjects without hepatic decompensation matched for fibrosis stage and followed up for a similar period. A serum sample obtained within 6 months after the decompensation event in cases and the same follow-up period in controls were tested for anti-HEV IgG. Subjects with a positive result had a baseline sample similarly tested for anti-HEV IgG. We measured levels of anti-HEV IgM and HEV RNA in blood samples from incident cases.RESULTS
Of the 1050 subjects analyzed, 314 (30%) experienced a clinical event. Of the 314 subjects who experienced decompensation as defined, 89 (28%) were tested for anti-HEV, along with 267 controls (without decompensation). Similar proportions of cases and controls tested positive for anti-HEV (22.5% and 20.6%, respectively; P = .70). Ten incident HEV infections were identified—4 in cases (4.5%) and 6 in controls (2.2%) (P = .28). HEV RNA was not detected in blood samples from the 10 incident infections. Only 2 of the 4 incident infections among cases were related temporally to the decompensation event.CONCLUSIONS
HEV does not appear to be a significant cause of hepatic decompensation among persons with previously stable, advanced chronic hepatitis C in the United States.