2nd February 2018, Volume 131 Number 1469

Joanne Hewitt, David Harte, Michelle Sutherland, Dawn Croucher, Lindsey Fouche, Peter Flanagan, Deborah Williamson

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is a common cause of acute hepatitis in developing countries, where faecal-oral transmission via faecally contaminated water is the most common transmission route.1 Hepatitis E…

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Summary

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) can be transmitted by blood transfusion. This study measured the presence of HEV antibodies (evidence of past or present infection) in New Zealand blood donors. This was determined to be 8.1 to 9.7% using two different antibody tests. The rate in New Zealand is similar to that reported in other developed countries. HEV was not found in blood samples from 5,000 donations using a molecular test to detect viral nucleic acid. This indicated no evidence of current HEV infection. This study is the largest to date to assess past and current HEV infection in New Zealand blood donors.

Abstract

Aim

Blood transfusion is one route of transmission of hepatitis E virus (HEV). The aim of this study was to assess both the prevalence of HEV antibodies and HEV infection in New Zealand blood donors.

Method

To determine HEV seroprevalence, donor plasma samples (n=1,013) were tested for HEV antibodies using two commercially available ELISA kits, the Wantai HEV IgG ELISA and the MP Diagnostics HEV ELISA 4.0. To assess the prevalence of HEV infection, pooled plasma samples from individual plasma donors (n=5,000) were tested for HEV RNA using RT-qPCR. Samples that tested HEV antibody positive or gave an equivocal result with either ELISA were also tested for HEV RNA.

Results

The HEV seroprevalence in New Zealand blood donors was 9.7% using the Wantai HEV IgG ELISA and 8.1% using the MP Diagnostics HEV ELISA 4.0. The presence of HEV antibodies was significantly and positively correlated with increasing donor age. HEV RNA was not detected in any of the samples tested, indicating no evidence of current infection.

Conclusion

This study, the largest to date to assess HEV seroprevalence in New Zealand, provides valuable baseline information on HEV seroprevalence and infection in New Zealand blood donors. The seroprevalence rate in New Zealand is similar to that reported in other developed countries.

Author Information

Joanne Hewitt, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, Porirua;
David Harte, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, Porirua;
Michelle Sutherland, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, Porirua;
Dawn Croucher, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, Porirua;
Lindsey Fouche, Donation Accreditation, New Zealand Blood Service, Auckland;
Peter Flanagan, Medical Director, New Zealand Blood Service, Auckland;
Deborah Williamson, Health Group, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, Porirua.

Acknowledgements

We thank the Donation Accreditation Unit, New Zealand Blood Service, for collecting plasma samples and collating sample data, and Helen Heffernan, Nicola King and Chris Hewison for their comments. This study was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

Correspondence

Dr Joanne Hewitt, Health Group, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, 34 Kenepuru Drive, Porirua.

Correspondence Email

joanne.hewitt@esr.cri.nz

Competing Interests

Dr Flanagan reports grants from Grifols, from null, outside the submitted work.

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