• epidemiology;
  • Greenland;
  • Inuits;
  • viral hepatitis

Summary. A descriptive study was performed to evaluate the relative frequencies and molecular epidemiological features of viral hepatitis types A to E among the Inuit population in West Greenland. Serum samples were collected from 503 Inuits (186 males and 317 females; mean age 35 years; range 7–79 years) and were tested for markers of viral hepatitis infection. The hepatitis A prevalence averaged 54%, with a significant rise from 9% to 50% between the second and third decade of life. As for hepatitis B, 42% of the total study population showed serological evidence of current or past hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and 7% were hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) carriers. Among the carriers, 6% were also positive for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), and HBV DNA could be detected in 49% of carriers by polymerase chain reaction. Typing of the HBV isolates revealed genomic group D in 83% (serotype ayw 2) and group A in 17% (serotype adw 2). Less than 1% of the study population had antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. None were positive for HCV RNA. Serological evidence of hepatitis D infection was found in 7% of those with hepatitis B helper virus infection markers and in 40% of the HBsAg carriers. As for hepatitis E, 3% of the Inuits showed reactivity in an enzyme immunoassay that detected hepatitis E virus antibody. HEV RNA could not be detected.