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Keywords:

  • ELISA;
  • genotype 1;
  • genotype 4;
  • HEV;
  • ORF2 protein

Summary.  Open reading frame 2 proteins (ORF2) from swine (genotype 4, S-ORF2) and human (genotype 1, H-ORF2) hepatitis E virus (HEV) having 91.4% identity at amino acid level were expressed using baculovirus expression system. Comparison of ELISAs based on the two proteins yielded identical results when sequential serum samples from monkeys and pigs experimentally infected with genotypes 1 and 4 HEV, respectively, were tested. Samples from patients (n = 258) suffering from non-A, non-B hepatitis during outbreaks of the disease and 180 sera from apparently healthy children were screened by H-ORF2-, S-ORF2-based ELISAs and Genelabs ELISA, a widely used commercial test for HEV diagnosis. Specificity of all three tests in detecting IgM and IgG antibodies in healthy children was comparable. Excellent correlation was noted in detecting both IgM (98.7% concordance) and IgG (97.7% concordance) anti-HEV antibodies when H-ORF2 and S-ORF2 ELISAs were compared. When compared with Genelabs ELISA, both H-ORF2 and S-ORF2 ELISAs identified 34 and 18 additional positives, respectively, in IgM and IgG anti-HEV tests showing comparatively less sensitivity of the commercial assay. The concordance of Genelabs ELISA in IgM detection was 86.4% and 85.6%, respectively, with H-ORF2 and S-ORF2 ELISAs. The concordance between Genelabs ELISA and H-ORF2 decreased further to 73.6% when 129 human samples from recent HEV epidemics (2002–2004) were tested for IgM. Similar results were obtained when sequential samples from 11 hepatitis E patients were examined. Screening of serum samples from 137 sporadic non-A, non-B hepatitis cases further confirmed the superiority of the H-ORF2 and S-ORF2 ELISAs. All 36/137 HEV-RNA-positive samples from sporadic cases belonged to genotype 1 confirming absence/rarity of type 4 human infections. H-ORF2 and S-ORF2 antigens were swappable in ELISAs for detecting both genotypes 1 and 4 HEV infections.