Changing Patterns of Acute Viral Hepatitis at a Major Urban Referral Center in Egypt

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Background.Changes in the viral etiology of hospitalized patients can inform us of changes in the overall epidemiology of acute viral hepatitis infections. We hypothesized that improvements in health care and sanitation in the past 2 decades in Egypt have significantly impacted the viral causes of acute viral hepatitis in hospitalized patients. We compared the viral causes of acute viral hepatitis at a major urban referral center with results reported from the same center 20 years earlier.Methods.Over a period of 10 months, 200 consecutive inpatients with clinical acute viral hepatitis were enrolled in the study, and serum samples were tested for hepatitis A through E, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus.Results.The frequency of acute hepatitis B virus infection as a cause of symptomatic hepatitis decreased from 43.4% in 1983 to 28.5% in 2002 (P < .01), and acute hepatitis A virus infection increased from 2.1% in 1983 to 34% in 2002 (P < .01), and occurred at older ages. In 1983, non—A, non-B hepatitis virus infection caused acute viral hepatitis in 38.7% of cases, compared with 31% in the present study (P = .12). The mean alanine aminotransferase level was highest in patients with combined infections, and clinical presentation did not distinguish between different viral etiologies of hepatitis.Conclusions.A significant decrease in hepatitis B virus infection and an increase in hepatitis A virus infection have occurred since the earlier study was performed in 1983. The decrease in hepatitis B virus infection is attributable to the steep decrease in hepatitis B virus infection among children that resulted from the universal hepatitis B virus immunization of infants that was initiated in 1991. The increase in clinical hepatitis A virus infection occurred in older patients and could be attributed to improved sanitation that delayed individuals' initial exposures to the virus.

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