Patients presenting with clinical and laboratory features consistent with a diagnosis of acute non-A, non-B hepatitis were evaluated for evidence of hepatitis C or hepatitis E infection and for evidence of severe or prolonged disease. Antibody to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) was detected in 75 of 108 (69%) patients, antibody to hepatitis E virus (anti-HEV) in three patients (3%), and neither antibody in 31 (29%) patients. One patient had both anti-HCV and anti-HEV. HCV RNA was not detected in sera from any of 20 patients with seronegative (non-ABCDE) hepatitis, but in all 10 patients with anti-HCV who were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Compared with patients with acute hepatitis C, those with non-ABCDE hepatitis had a lower incidence of parenteral risk factors (6% vs. 70%; P < .001), higher peak serum bilirubin levels (45% vs. 5% with peak levels >15 mg/dL; P < .001), more prolonged jaundice (25% vs. 0% with peak bilirubin >5 weeks after onset; P < .01), more severe prothrombin time abnormalities (26% vs. 0% with >3 second prolongation; P < .001), more severe hypoalbuminemia (39% vs. 9% with albumin <3 g/dL; P < .01), and more frequent major clinical complications (13% vs. 0% with encephalopathy; P < .01; 10% vs. 0% with death or transplant; P = .024). Patients with acute non-ABCDE hepatitis were less likely to develop chronic hepatitis than those with acute hepatitis C (23% vs. 68%; P < .05). Thus, patients with acute non-ABCDE hepatitis are epidemiologically distinct from those with acute hepatitis C and have a significantly more severe acute illness.
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