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Reuters Health Information (2004-08-31): Eating raw deer meat seen as key risk factor for hepatitis E in Japan


Eating raw deer meat seen as key risk factor for hepatitis E in Japan

Last Updated: 2004-08-31 14:25:11 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Findings from a case-control study conducted in Japan suggest that consumption of uncooked deer meat is an important risk factor for hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection.

"The most significant finding of the study was that those who had eaten deer meat had a higher prevalence of anti-HEV IgG antibody, suggesting previous infection with HEV," Dr. Naoto Kitajima, from Kasai City Hospital in Japan, and colleagues note.

Last year, a small outbreak of HEV was noted in Japan among people who had consumed raw meat from an infected deer. However, it was unclear if eating such meat represented a major epidemiologic risk factor for HEV infection in the country.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Medical Virology for September, are based on a comparison of anti-HEV antibodies in 45 Kasai residents who reported eating raw deer meat and 45 control residents. The groups were comparable in terms of age, overseas travel history, and rate of anti-hepatitis A virus (HAV) antibody positivity.

Anti-HEV IgG antibody was detected in eight subjects (17.7%) who ate deer meat, but in only one (2.2%) of those who did not (p = 0.014), the investigators report. Anti-HEV antibody status was not predictive of anti-HAV antibody status.

Eating raw deer meat is an important risk factor for HEV infection, at least in certain regions of Japan, Dr. Kitajima's team concludes. The results suggest that the cases observed in last year's outbreak do not appear to be exceptional, they add.

J Med Virol 2004;74:67-70.

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