Hepatitis E, the neglected one

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Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is a worldwide disease. It is the first cause of acute viral hepatitis in the world with an estimated 20 million cases every year and 56 000 deaths. In developing countries, hepatitis E is a waterborne infection. In these countries, HEV genotypes 1 and 2 cause large outbreaks and affect young subjects with a significant mortality rate in pregnant women and patients with cirrhosis. In the developed countries, HEV genotypes 3 and 4 are responsible for autochthonous, sporadic hepatitis and transmission is zoonotic. HEV can cause neurological disorders and in immunocompromised patients, chronic infections. The progression of acute hepatitis E is most often mild and resolves spontaneously. Diagnostic tools include anti-HEV IgM antibodies in serum and/or viral RNA in the blood or stools by PCR. Ribavirin is used to treat chronic infection. A vaccine has been developed in China.

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