Antibody levels to hepatitis E virus in North Carolina swine workers, non-swine workers, swine, and murids.

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  • 1 Department of Virus Diseases, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA. mark.withers@na.amedd.army.mil

In a cross-sectional serosurvey, eastern North Carolina swine workers (n = 165) were compared with non-swine workers (127) for the presence of antibodies to hepatitis E virus as measured by a quantitative immunoglobulin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Using a cutoff of 20 Walter Reed U/ml, swine-exposed subjects had a 4.5-fold higher antibody prevalence (10.9%) than unexposed subjects (2.4%). No evidence of past clinical hepatitis E or unexplained jaundice could be elicited. Swine (84) and mice (61), from farm sites in the same region as exposed subjects, were also tested. Antibody prevalence in swine (overall = 34.5%) varied widely (10.0-91.7%) according to site, but no antibody was detected in mice. Our data contribute to the accumulating evidence that hepatitis E may be a zoonosis and specifically to the concept of it as an occupational infection of livestock workers.

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