Background: Recently, chronic hepatitis E has been increasingly reported in organ transplant recipients in European countries. In Japan, the prevalence of hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection after transplantation remains unclear, so we conducted a nationwide cross-sectional study to clarify the prevalence of chronic HEV infection in Japanese liver transplant recipients. Methods: A total of 1893 liver transplant recipients in 17 university hospitals in Japan were examined for the presence of immunoglobulin G (IgG), IgM and IgA classes of anti-HEV antibodies, and HEV RNA in serum. Findings: The prevalence of anti-HEV IgG, IgM and IgA class antibodies was 2.9% (54/1893), 0.05% (1/1893) and 0% (0/1893), respectively. Of 1651 patients tested for HEV RNA, two patients (0.12%) were found to be positive and developed chronic infection after liver transplantation. In both cases, HEV RNA was also detected in one of the blood products transfused at the perioperative period. Analysis of the HEV genomes revealed that the HEV isolates obtained from the recipients and the transfused blood products were identical in both cases, indicating transfusion-transmitted HEV infection. Interpretation: The prevalence of HEV antibodies in liver transplant recipients was 2.9%, which is low compared with the healthy population in Japan and with organ transplant recipients in European countries; however, the present study found, for the first time, two Japanese patients with chronic HEV infection that was acquired via blood transfusion during or after liver transplantation.
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