Prevalence and Clinical Correlates of Chronic Hepatitis E Infection in German Renal Transplant Recipients With Elevated Liver Enzymes

2018 Transplant Direct 4;2 (e341)

Background: Elevated liver enzymes are frequently observed in renal transplant recipients and warrant further exploration. In immunosuppressed patients, hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection may cause chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and extrahepatic manifestations such as renal injury. Methods: We performed a retrospective cross-sectional study investigating the prevalence, clinical correlates, and outcome of chronic HEV infection in a cohort of renal transplant recipients with elevated liver enzymes. Results: Over a period of 30 months, 140 of 1469 renal transplant recipients had elevated liver enzymes, of which serum samples from 98 patients were available to determine HEV status. Seventeen patients were detected with HEV infection, of which 16 developed chronic HEV infection, while 1 patient controlled viremia (prevalence of chronic infection of 16.3%, with a minimum prevalence of 1.1% in the whole cohort). Increased liver stiffness was indicated by an average FibroScan result of 11.2 kPa in these patients. All 16 patients with chronic HEV infection were treated with ribavirin for a mean duration of 3 months. Five patients developed a viral rebound and received a second treatment course, of which 2 controlled HEV replication. Six months after the end of therapy, HEV clearance was achieved in 81.3% of the patients. One patient developed ribavirin resistance. Hemolytic anemia after ribavirin treatment was frequent, requiring blood transfusion in 3 patients. Four patients developed de novo glomerulonephritis, of which 2 were possibly associated with HEV infection. Conclusions: This retrospective study showed that prevalence of chronic HEV infection was high in our renal transplant patient cohort and was associated with significant liver impairment and the occurrence of renal injury. Ribavirin treatment was effective and should be initiated early to avoid complications, but the risk of severe hemolytic anemia makes strict monitoring essential.