Hepatitis A (HAV) is a contagious disease spread by contact with infected people, fluids, and waste. It causes an acute infection of the liver that generally does not require treatment and can self-resolve. Young children infected with HAV typically have a milder form of the disease compared to adults, who can be at risk of acute liver failure, especially if there is underlying chronic liver disease. HAV can affect people of all ages but can be prevented with vaccination.
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Hepatitis A (HAV)
Symptomatic HAV infections affect about 1.4 million people globally per year and the CDC estimates that 10% to 15% of people with HAV will have symptoms that persist or reoccur over a 6- to 9-month period. The virus is highly contagious and primarily transmitted by the fecal-oral route, by either person-to-person contact or through consumption of contaminated food or water. Currently, the most commonly identified risk factor among reported cases of acute HAV infection is contact with an infected household member or sexual partner. Antibodies produced in response to Hepatitis A last for life and protect against reinfection, although the best way to prevent Hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated.
Hepatitis A cannot be distinguished from other types of viral hepatitis on the basis of clinical symptoms alone. For this reason, serologic tests that identify the presence of antibodies to HAV are the primary method for diagnosis. HAV-specific anti-IgM indicates an acute infection and is detectable from 1-2 weeks after initial infection and persists for up to 14 weeks. A positive IgG result signifies that the acute stage of the illness past and the person is immune to further infection. IgG antibody to HAV is also found in the blood following vaccination. HAV has several critical immunogenic epitopes which require precise folding and to date, recombinant techniques have not been able to mimic the conformation of these epitopes. As a result, most commercial HAV immunoassays use native HAV antigens as opposed to recombinant HAV proteins for antibody detection.
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