Gut Liver.  2011 Dec;5(4):427-431.

Current Status of Hepatitis E Virus Infection in Korea

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seongnam, Korea.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an emerging pathogen associated with acute viral hepatitis, and HEV is becoming increasingly recognized. Approximately 2% of acute viral hepatitis is caused by HEV, and 18 cases of hepatitis E have been reported in Korea. Of these cases, only two have involved a history of travel from India, which suggests that they were imported cases. The remaining reported cases include a sporadic case of acute hepatitis E with genotype 4 HEV isolates and identification of the full genome sequence, as well as another case of genotype 4 HEV hepatitis that developed after ingestion of the raw bile juice of a wild bear living on a mountain in southern Korea. Moreover, genotype 3 HEV, which shows close genetic homology with swine HEV in Korea, has been detected in collected human serum samples. Therefore, genotypes 3 and 4 HEV are currently circulating in the Korean community and may be related to zoonotic transmission and food-borne infection. The reported anti-HEV seroprevalence of 17% to 27% in the Korean population suggests that HEV infection has been autochthonously circulating, thereby resulting in subclinical infection in Korea. Given the discrepancies among anti-HEV assays, the diagnosis of hepatitis E should be made with caution using adequate antibody assays, and HEV RNA should be preferably detected from the stool. Further virological characterization and epidemiological study of the virus are warranted.


Hepatitis E virus; Korea; Epidemiology; Genotype; Swine
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