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Type-E hepatitis is responsible for more than three million symptomatic cases and more than 40,000 deaths worldwide. The situation of this hepatitis is overall poorly known in sub-Saharan Africa. Notably, the baseline circulation of HEV outside sporadic outbreaks has been barely characterized in this large region. More specifically, the impact of superinfection by this virus on the health status of the large reservoir of patients chronically infected with other hepatitis viruses remains to be evaluated. We searched for anti-HEV immunoglobulins in a series of 200 pregnant women and 92 patients with persistent liver infections with hepatitis B or C viruses and subsequently tried to assess serological co-variations with demographical and clinical features. We observed that only 1.5 % of expectant mothers were seropositive of anti-HEV IgG while it was the case for 18.4 % of patients with chronic liver diseases (P=4.5E-07). The presence of anti-HEV was not linked to any of the collected demographical features (age, sex, education, pork meat consumption, water supply, …). By contrast, the presence of anti-HEV was significantly associated with increased levels (1.6-1.8-fold, P<0.0001) of blood aminotransferases (AST, ALT) in patients with persistent hepatitis B or C. Our work indicates that, in Ivory Coast, the presence of IgG directed against HEV might contribute to a deterioration of liver health in patients with already installed persistent liver infections. The mechanisms explaining such phenomenon at distance of acute phase of infection are still unknown but might be linked either to a residual persistence of HEV in a context of general immune exhaustion or to an inappropriate auto-immune reaction as already observed in the aftermath of other viral infection types.
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