Investigating an outbreak of acute Viral Hepatitis caused by Hepatitis E virus variants in Karachi, South Pakistan

Document Type



Medicine; Gastroenterology


Hepatitis E is a classic water-borne disease in developing countries. Detection of anti-HEV IgM and IgG antibodies, in addition to HEV RNA are useful epidemiological markers in diagnosis of hepatitis E. This study was conducted to investigate an outbreak of acute viral hepatitis in South-Pakistan. Anti-HEV IgM and IgG were assessed comparatively with serological kits manufactured by Abbott, Cosmic, TGH, and Wantai, selecting HEV RNA as reference assay. Molecular evolutionary analysis was performed by phylogeny and HEV spread time analysis by Bayesian Coalescent Theory approach. Of the 89 Patients, 24 (26.9%) did not have acute hepatitis viral marker. Of the remaining 65 cases, 4 (6.1%) were positive for anti-HAV IgM, one (1.5%) for anti-HBc IgM, 2 (3%) for HCV, 53 (81.5%) for anti-HEV IgM, and 5 (7.7%) were hepatitis-negative. The Wantai test was 100% sensitive and specific followed by Cosmic (98.1% and 100%), TGH (98.1% and 97.2%) and Abbott (79.2% and 83.3%). Two HEV variant strains were detected by phylogeny responsible for this acute hepatitis outbreak. Estimates on demographic history of HEV showed that HEV in Pakistan has remained at a steady nonexpanding phase from around 1970 to the year 2005, in which it expanded explosively with the emergence of new HEV variants. In conclusion, the limited sensitivity of available assay (Abbott anti-HEV EIA) may be a concern in HEV diagnosis in Pakistan. This study cautions that the dissemination of the variant strains to other areas of Pakistan may lead to explosive HEV outbreaks. J. Med. Virol. 83:622-629, 2011.


Journal of Medical Virology