While previous studies have shown low levels of circulating hepatitis E virus (HEV) in Scotland, a study in the current issue of Eurosurveillance attempts to reassess current Scottish HEV epidemiology.
Blood donor samples from five Scottish blood centres, the minipools for routine HEV screening and liver transplant recipients were tested for HEV antibodies and RNA to determine seroprevalence and viraemia. Blood donor data were compared with results from previous studies covering 2004-2008. Notified laboratory-confirmed hepatitis E cases (2009-2016) were extracted from national surveillance data. Viraemic samples from blood donors (2016) and chronic hepatitis E transplant patients (2014-2016) were sequenced.
The study concludes that the seroprevalence, number of viraemic donors and numbers of notified laboratory-confirmed cases of HEV in Scotland have all recently increased. The causes of this change are unknown, but need further investigation. The authors further conclude that clinicians in Scotland, particularly those caring for immunocompromised patients, should have a low threshold for testing for HEV.