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Chronic hepatitis E in solid-organ transplantation: the key implications of immunosuppressants

Wang, Yijin; Metselaar, Herold J.; Peppelenbosch, Maikel P.; Pan, Qiuwei

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: August 2014 - Volume 27 - Issue 4 - p 303–308
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000074

Purpose of review Solid-organ recipients infected with hepatitis E virus (HEV) bear an extremely high risk of developing chronic hepatitis, although this virus only causes acute infection in the general population. Immunosuppressive medication universally used after transplantation to prevent organ rejection appears to be a main risk factor for developing chronic infection. This review aims to overview and emphasize the current clinical and experimental evidence regarding the key implications of immunosuppressants in chronic hepatitis E.

Recent findings Over 60% of organ recipients who are infected with HEV develop chronic hepatitis. Immunosuppressant treatment after transplantation was identified as a key risk factor. Therefore, dose reduction or even withdrawal of immunosuppressants is considered as the first intervention strategy to achieve viral clearance in these patients. Otherwise, ribavirin, as an off-label medication, is considered as an antiviral treatment, with compelling outcomes observed so far. Interestingly, in addition to a common immunosuppression property that can favour HEV infection in general, different types of immunosuppressants may exert differential impacts on the infection course in patients. Furthermore, potential interaction may exist between particular immunosuppressant and ribavirin. With the recent development of a cell culture system for HEV, experimental research has been initiated to investigate how immunosuppressive drugs interact with HEV infection.

Summary On the basis of the current evidence, it remains impossible to define an optimal immunosuppressive protocol for these HEV-infected patients. However, the realization of this clinical issue and the initiation of translational research using cell culture models of HEV have been represented as milestones in this field.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Correspondence to Qiuwei Pan, PhD, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Room Na-617, 's-Gravendijkwal 230, NL-3015 CE, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. E-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.