Call for further research into Hepatitis E infection

20 June 2018

Leading scientists have outlined the challenges facing the food industry after pork, shellfish and soft fruits were implicated in a rise in Hepatitis E infection.

Writing in New Food Magazine, Professor Linda Scobie, of Glasgow Caledonian University, joined food and environmental virology experts Martin D'Agostino and Nigel Cook, to call for further UK research into food-borne transmission of HEV.

Hepatitis E is generally a mild disease but can be more serious for pregnant women.

The infection usually manifests itself in flu-like symptoms, jaundice, tiredness, fever, and vomiting and can also cause problems for those contracting it through blood transfusions.

The most recent figures from 2016 show the number of laboratory-diagnosed cases of HEV in Scotland increased to 206 from just 13 in 2011.

In a report earlier this year, a team from Glasgow Caledonian University found traces of the virus in shellfish sold in supermarkets.

It was the first time HEV had been found in commercially sold shellfish harvested from Scottish waters.

Professor Linda Scobie, writing in the June edition of New Food Magazine, said: "Further research is required to determine how to tackle the issues arising from HEV.

"Significant challenges are presented when dealing with HEV contamination of food. To date, there has been no thorough evaluation of the heat resistance of HEV, particularly under food preparation conditions and we do not know the risk posed by infected food handlers spreading the virus."