Detection of HEV antigen as a novel marker for the diagnosis of hepatitis E



Infection with hepatitis E virus (HEV) may be diagnosed by the presence of HEV RNA or anti-HEV antibodies. An enzyme immunoassay (EIA) was developed for the detection of antigen. Twenty-four monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were produced. An indirect sandwich EIA was developed to detect HEV antigen using a combination of three mAbs as coating antibodies. Approximately 44.6% (33/74), 28.6% (50/175), and none (0/27) of sera positive for anti-HEV IgM alone, both anti-HEV IgM and IgG, and anti-HEV IgG alone also were positive for HEV antigen using this EIA. Forty-two HEV antibody-positive sera were tested for HEV RNA and antigen in parallel and the concordance was 81.0% (34/42). All PCR products were found to belong to HEV genotype 4. In order to evaluate the temporal relationship between HEV antigen positivity and HEV RNA, anti-HEV IgG and IgM, and ALT concentrations, macaques were infected with HEV genotypes 1 and 4 and serial samples were collected. The results showed that the antigen EIA can detect the capsid proteins of both genotypes. HEV antigen was detectable prior to ALT elevation and the appearance of anti-HEV antibodies in the infected monkeys and lasted for several weeks in all cases. HEV antigen became detectable in the serum at almost the same time as HEV RNA in feces but persisted for 4 weeks less than HEV RNA. This assay should be valuable for the diagnosis of acute hepatitis E, particularly in the window period prior to seroconversion to anti-HEV. J. Med. Virol. 78:1441–1448, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.