Background: Nepal is an endemic area for hepatitis E virus (HEV) epidemics. The research on viral hepatitis in Nepal is limited.
Methods: Serum samples from 170 patients presenting with symptoms of hepatitis were collected from April to May 2014 in Biratnagar, Nepal, and then transported to Xiamen, China, for further evaluation. All samples were tested for HEV RNA, HEV antigen, anti-HEV IgM, anti-HEV IgG and anti-HBc IgM, anti-HCV IgG, and anti-HAV IgM.
Results: Sixteen patients were identified as acute hepatitis E with the presence of ≥ 2 HEV acute phase markers (antigen, RNA, and anti-HEV IgM). HEV infection was the major cause of potential active viral hepatitis (59.2%, 16 of 27), followed by HBV (25.9%, 7 of 27, anti-HBc IgM positive), HAV (18.5%, 5 of 27, anti-HAV IgM positive), and HCV (3.7%, 1 of 27, anti-HCV antibodies). All 16 confirmed HE cases were positive for HEV antigen, while 5 cases were HEV RNA positive, as well as 15 anti-HEV IgM positive. The low positive rate of RNA might be related to the collection and/or the transportation of these samples.
Conclusions: This study showed that HEV is a major cause of acute hepatitis in developing countries and regions. Application of immunoassay diagnostic kits, especially the HEV antigen tests, showed great potential for HE detection in these countries and regions.