Prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis E in two rural Egyptian communities.

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  • 1 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201, USA.

A population-based serosurvey in two rural Egyptian communities was used to assess age-specific prevalence of antibody to hepatitis E virus (anti-HEV). One community is in the Nile Delta (11,182 inhabitants; 3,997 participants) and the other in Upper Egypt (10,970 inhabitants; 6,029 participants). Samples were tested for anti-HEV with a commercial enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) based on antigens derived from open reading frame (ORF)2 and ORF3. Although there was a clear difference in sensitivity among the lots of the commercial test used, it was still possible to determine the seroprevalence. The seroprevalence of anti-HEV exceeded 60% in the first decade of life, peaked at 76% in the second decade and remained above 60% until the eighth decade. Prevalence of this magnitude is among the highest reported in the world, with an age-specific pattern more similar to hyperendemic hepatitis A virus transmission than generally described. Lot-to-lot variation in the sensitivity of the commercial ELISA kit highlights a problem when comparing seroepidemiologic studies of different populations.