HEV infection and blood safety
Project leader: Prof Hans Zaaijer MD PhD
Recently, chronic infection with hepatitis E virus (HEV) was detected in several immunosuppressed, poly-transfused patients in the Netherlands. In the past, acute hepatitis E predominantly occurred in persons returning from HEV-endemic countries, and the HEV seroprevalence in the Netherlands was low. More recently, the incidence of locally acquired HEV has increased in industrialized countries, which seems to be linked to HEV-genotype 3 infection among pigs. Reports show that many pig farms in the Netherlands are infected with HEV and that viral RNA can be detected in pig meat. Several studies showed that HEV can be transmitted by blood.
The increased HEV incidence raises concern about the safety of blood and blood products. A large project, aiming to determine the incidence and seroprevalence of HEV infection among blood donors, has been proposed. To facilitate the study, sensitive HEV PCR and genotyping assays are being developed.