Lessons from intensified surveillance of viral hepatitis a, Israel, 2017 and 2018

Yael Gozlan, Itay Bar-Or, Hadar Volnowitz, Efrat Asulin, Rivka Rich, Emilia Anis, Yonat Shemer, Moran Szwarcwort Cohen, Etti Levy Dahary, Licita Schreiber, Ilana Goldiner, Orit Rozenberg, Orit Picard, Michal Savion, Inbal Fuchs, Ella Mendelson, Orna Mor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Universal vaccination of toddlers has led to very low hepatitis A (HAV) endemicity in Israel. However, sporadic outbreaks still occur, necessitating better surveillance. Aim: To implement a comprehensive HAV surveillance programme. Methods: In 2017 and 2018, sera from suspected HAV cases that tested positive for anti-HAV IgM antibodies were transferred to the Central Virology Laboratory (CVL) for molecular confirmation and genotyping. Sewage samples were collected in Israel and Palestine* and were molecularly analysed. All molecular (CVL), epidemiological (District Health Offices and Epidemiological Division) and clinical (treating physicians) data were combined and concordantly assessed. Results: Overall, 146 cases (78 in 2017 and 68 in 2018, median age 34 years, 102 male) and 240 sewage samples were studied. Most cases (96%) were unvaccinated. In 2017, 89% of cases were male, 45% of whom were men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2018, 49% were male, but only 3% of them were MSM (p<0.01). In 2017, 82% of cases and 63% of sewage samples were genotype 1A, phylogenetically associated with a global MSM-HAV outbreak. In 2018, 80% of cases and 71% of sewage samples were genotype 1B, related to the endemic strain previously identified in Israel and Palestine*. Environmental analysis revealed clustering of sewage and cases' sequences, and country-wide circulation of HAV. Conclusions: Molecular confirmation of HAV infection in cases and analysis of environmental samples, combined with clinical and epidemiological investigation, may improve HAV surveillance. Sequence-based typing of both clinical and sewage-derived samples could assist in understanding viral circulation.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 2021


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