Hepatitis E virus (HEV), identified over 30 years ago, remains a serious threat to life, health, and productivity in developing countries where access to clean water is limited. Recognition that HEV also circulates as a zoonotic and food-borne pathogen in developed countries is more recent. Even without treatment, most cases of HEV-related acute viral hepatitis (with or without jaundice) resolve within 1 to 2 months. However, HEV sometimes leads to acute liver failure, chronic infection, or extrahepatic symptoms. The mechanisms of pathogenesis appear to be substantially immune mediated. This review covers the epidemiology of HEV infection worldwide, the humoral and cellular immune responses to HEV, and the persistence and protection of antibodies produced in response to both natural infection and vaccines. We focus on the contributions of altered immune states (associated with pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus [HIV], and immunosup- pressive agents used in cancer and transplant medicine) to the elevated risks of chronic infection (in immunosuppressed/immunocompromised patients) and acute liver failure and mortality (among pregnant women). We conclude by discussing outstanding questions about the immune response to HEV and interactions with hormones and comorbid conditions. These questions take on heightened importance now that a vaccine is available.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Microbiology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases