Journal Article

Active Surveillance for Acute Viral Hepatitis in Rural Villages in the Nile Delta

Fatma A. Meky, Sonia K. Stoszek, Mohamed Abdel Hamid, Sahar Selim, Ayman Abdel Wahab, Nabiel Mikhail, Sherif El-Kafrawy, Mai El-Daly, Fatma Abdel-Aziz, Soraya Sharaf, Mostafa K. Mohamed, Ronald E. Engle, Suzanne U. Emerson, Robert H. Purcell, Alan D. Fix and G. Thomas Strickland

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 42, issue 5, pages 628-633
Published in print March 2006 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online March 2006 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI:
Active Surveillance for Acute Viral Hepatitis in Rural Villages in the Nile Delta

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Background. Acute viral hepatitis is less frequent in Egypt than serum antibody levels suggest. Because acute viral hepatitis has a wide clinical spectrum, we tested the hypothesis that many cases are undetected because of mild illness caused by initial, early-childhood exposure to hepatitis viruses.

Methods. During active case detection among 20,000 inhabitants of rural villages in Egypt, we screened 1715 symptomatic patients for serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. Viral hepatitis markers were tested in 47 subjects who had ALT levels that were least twice the normal level.

Results. Of the 47 individuals tested, 4 children aged 3–5 years had immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies to hepatitis A virus (anti-HAV IgM). One also had a possible false-positive result to a test for IgM antibodies to hepatitis E virus. None had serological evidence of acute hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, 33 of the remaining 43 had active HCV infection, having both antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV) and HCV RNA. Four others anti-HCV without HCV RNA, and 2 others had seroconversion to anti-HCV during follow-up. Two patients who were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen had chronic HBV infection. Only 3 with elevated ALT levels had no evidence of acute or chronic infections with known hepatitis viruses. Immunoglobulin G antibodies to hepatitis E virus was detected in 40 patients.

Conclusion. Active surveillance covering ∼50,000 person-years detected only 4 cases of acute HAV infection. Almost all persons with mild symptoms and elevated ALT levels had serological evidence of chronic viral hepatitis, most often associated with HCV. Many of these cases were probably “flare-ups” of HCV infection or incidental illness in patients with chronic HCV infection, but some could have been caused by difficult-to-confirm initial HCV infections. Although serological evidence for exposures was highly prevalent, hepatitis viruses seldom caused acute viral hepatitis in these communities.

Journal Article.  4296 words. 

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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