Background: Previous studies showed low levels of circulating hepatitis E virus (HEV) in Scotland. We aimed to reassess current Scottish HEV epidemiology.
Methods: Blood donor samples from five Scottish blood centres, the minipools for routine HEV screening and liver transplant recipients were tested for HEV antibodies and RNA to determine seroprevalence and viraemia. Blood donor data were compared with results from previous studies covering 2004–08. Notified laboratory-confirmed hepatitis E cases (2009-16) were extracted from national surveillance
data. Viraemic samples from blood donors (2016) and chronic hepatitis E transplant patients (2014–16) were sequenced.
Anti-HEV IgG seroprevalence varied geographically and was highest in Edinburgh
where it increased from 4.5% in 2004–08) to 9.3% in 2014–15 (p=0.001). It was most marked in donors <35 years. HEV RNA was found in 1:2,481 donors, compared with 1:14,520 in 2011. Notified laboratory confirmed cases increased by a factor of 15 between 2011 and 2016, from 13 to 206. In 2011–13, 1 of 329
transplant recipients tested positive for acute HEV, compared with six cases of chronic infection during 2014–16. Of 10 sequenced viraemic donors eight and all six patients were infected with genotype 3 clade 1 virus, common in European pigs.
Conclusions: The seroprevalence, number of viraemic donors and numbers of notified laboratory-confirmed cases of HEV in Scotland have all recently increased. The causes of this change are unknown, but need further investigation. Clinicians in Scotland, particularly those caring for immunocompromised patients, should have a low threshold for testing for HEV.
- hepatitis E