Environmental research

Arsenic exposure and hepatitis E virus infection during pregnancy.

PMID 26186135


Arsenic has immunomodulatory properties and may have the potential to alter susceptibility to infection in humans. We aimed to assess the relation of arsenic exposure during pregnancy with immune function and hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection, defined as seroconversion during pregnancy and postpartum. We assessed IgG seroconversion to HEV between 1st and 3rd trimester (TM) and 3 months postpartum (PP) among 1100 pregnancies in a multiple micronutrient supplementation trial in rural Bangladesh. Forty women seroconverted to HEV and were matched with 40 non-seroconverting women (controls) by age, parity and intervention. We assessed urinary inorganic arsenic plus methylated species (∑As) (µg/L) at 1st and 3rd TM and plasma cytokines (pg/mL) at 1st and 3rd TM and 3 months PP. HEV seroconverters' urinary ∑As was elevated throughout pregnancy. Non-seroconverters' urinary ∑As was similar to HEV seroconverters at 1st TM but declined at 3rd TM. The adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of HEV seroconversion was 2.17 (1.07, 4.39) per interquartile range (IQR) increase in average-pregnancy urinary ∑As. Increased urinary ∑As was associated with increased concentrations of IL-2 during the 1st and 3rd TM and 3 months PP among HEV seroconverters but not non-seroconverters. The relation of urinary arsenic during pregnancy with incident HEV seroconversion and with IL-2 levels among HEV-seroconverting pregnant women suggests arsenic exposure during pregnancy may enhance susceptibility to HEV infection.

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