Background: Although non-A, non-B (NANB) viral hepatitis has been implicated as an etiology of fulminant hepatitis, hepatitis C virus (HCV) has not been shown to result in acute hepatic failure and hepatitis E virus (HEV) has predominantly been associated with fulminant hepatitis among pregnant women. Methods: Using polymerase chain reaction to detect HCV and HEV genomes, four-antigen radioimmunoblot assay (4-RIBA) to measure anti-HCV antibodies, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect anti-HEV immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies, 17 patients with sporadic fulminant or subfulminant hepatitis of presumed NANB viral etiology were studied. Results: The diagnosis of acute NANB viral hepatitis was made based on clinical information, serological tests, biochemical profiles, and pathological features. All 17 patients were negative for anti-HEV IgM antibodies and HEV RNA in either serum and/or liver. HCV RNAs were detected in 2 patients although anti-HCV antibodies were negative in all of them. Conclusions: It is shown that HCV is infrequently associated with and HEV is not an identifiable cause of presumed NANB fulminant or subfulminant hepatitis in this patient population. Although further studies will be required for identification of the causative agent, it is possible that another agent is responsible for the occurrence of sporadic NANB fulminant or subfulminant hepatitis.
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