Nav: Home

EPFL scientists map high-risk areas for hepatitis E

July 11, 2019

EPFL scientists have created the first world map of regions with the highest prevalence of the hepatitis E virus (HEV). They hope that their map - freely available online - will help governments and NGOs design more effective prevention campaigns based on reliable data, particularly when it comes to setting up refugee camps. The scientists' research has just been published in Scientific Reports.

In Europe, China, Japan and North America, the main way people catch HEV is by eating undercooked pork, and the resulting disease is generally not fatal. However, in Mexico, India, Africa and most Asian countries, HEV is contracted by coming into contact with water from a river or well contaminated with fecal matter. According to the World Health Organization, there are around 20 million HEV infections worldwide every year and some 50,000 deaths from the disease. Hepatitis E epidemics are particularly deadly for pregnant women and generally occur after heavy rains and floods or after months-long droughts.

Machine learning

To build their map, the EPFL scientists compiled data on all Hepatitis E epidemics recorded worldwide since 1980 and on environmental statistics like temperature, soil wetness and rainfall over the same period. They also factored in geographical location, population density and the rate of evapotranspiration, or how much river water evaporates during a drought. Evapotranspiration is important because the more that occurs, the more highly concentrated the intestinal pathogens are in the contaminated water that remains - water that is often used for cooking, washing or even religious ceremonies.

Thanks to machine learning, the scientists were able to crunch through all the data and come up with actionable results. "Our study confirmed that the areas most at risk are those with a high population density, heavy seasonal rainfall and high evapotranspiration rates," says Anna Carratalà, a scientist at EPFL's Environmental Chemistry Laboratory and the study's lead author. Her co-author, Stéphane Joost, works at EPFL's Laboratory of Geographic Information Systems. "One way to reduce that risk is to artificially increase river water flow rates during the hottest, driest periods of the year."

The need for more data

The EPFL scientists have accomplished a monumental task in bringing together data from a number of online sources, yet their map is only one step towards developing prevention campaigns in high-risk areas. For instance, their map shows that measures urgently need to be taken in northern India. According to Carratalà, the next step would be to add information on annual HEV concentrations in the Ganges River to their dataset, along with the number of Hepatitis E cases recorded at local hospitals. That would give them greater insight into how environmental factors affect Hepatitis E epidemics in that region.

The scientists worked with India's National Institute of Epidemiology to collect data about the country. In a new project, they will look at how human activity affects the concentrations of HEV and other contaminants - like antibiotic-resistant genes - in the Rhone in Switzerland and compare that with concentrations in the Ganges.
-end-


Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Related Hepatitis Articles:

Liver cancer: Awareness of hepatitis D must be raised
Scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) have studied the most serious consequence of chronic hepatitis: hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatitis B: New therapeutic approach may help to cure chronic hepatitis B infection
Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München, Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have developed a novel therapeutic approach to cure chronic hepatitis B.
Anti-hepatitis medicine surprises
A new effective treatment of hepatitis C not only combats the virus, but is also effective against potentially fatal complications such as reduced liver functioning and cirrhosis.
Nanotechnology delivers hepatitis B vaccine
X-ray imaging shows that nanostructured silica acts as a protective vehicle to deliver intact antigen to the intestine so that it can trigger an immune response.
Checkmate for hepatitis B viruses in the liver
Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich, working in collaboration with researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the University Hospital Heidelberg, have for the first time succeeded in conquering a chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus in a mouse model.
How common is Hepatitis C infection in each US state?
Hepatitis C virus infection is a major cause of illness and death in the United States and injection drug use is likely fueling many new cases.
New strains of hepatitis C found in Africa
The largest population study of hepatitis C in Africa has found three new strains of the virus circulating in the general population in sub-Saharan Africa.
High stability of the hepatitis B virus
At room temperature, hepatitis B viruses (HBV) remain contagious for several weeks and they are even able to withstand temperatures of four degrees centigrade over the span of nine months.
Findings could lead to treatment of hepatitis B
Researchers have gained new insights into the virus that causes hepatitis B -- a life-threatening and incurable infection that afflicts more than 250 million people worldwide.
How to cure more hepatitis C patients
The cost of cures for hepatitis C have been prohibitive, but experts who served on an NAS panel have a solution that will save more patients and incentivize drug innovation.
More Hepatitis News and Hepatitis Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.