Hepatitis E Diagnosis and Management After Liver, Kidney, or Heart Transplant: A Single-Center Experience

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Transplantation proceedings


BACKGROUND: Transplant-related hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is a rarely recognized phenomenon with significant clinical importance given its potential to result in chronic hepatitis posttransplant.

METHODS: We retrospectively evaluated HEV diagnosis and treatment after liver, kidney, and heart transplant in a single center. We identified patients diagnosed with HEV by serologic testing and evaluated their treatment regimens.

RESULTS: Fifteen transplant recipients (12 liver, 2 kidney, and 1 heart) presented with elevated liver enzymes and were positive for HEV IgM antibody. Liver enzymes normalized in 4 patients after being treated with ribavirin. One of the 4 patients had 2 recurrences with positive HEV RNA results following ribavirin treatment but recovered after 12 months of ribavirin therapy. After treatment with reduction in immunosuppression without antiviral treatment, 6 of 8 patients' liver enzymes normalized. One of these patients died of acute pancreatitis 2 months after testing positive for HEV IgM antibody.

CONCLUSIONS: The potential for complications related to active HEV infections in transplant recipients necessitates prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent irreversible damage. Diagnosis with HEV reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction should follow a positive HEV IgM antibody test. This manuscript provides evidence that ribavirin antiviral therapy and reducing immunosuppression are effective treatments for HEV infections in liver, kidney, and heart transplant recipients, which has not been sufficiently investigated in the population of the United States. Larger multicenter studies are needed to confirm the risks and benefits of using ribavirin antiviral therapy as first-line therapy of HEV posttransplant.

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ePub ahead of print