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Papers of the Week

2022 Sep




Rare Diagnostic and Clinical Manifestations in an Acute Hepatitis A Infection: A Case Report.


Figg WD, Crawford DL, Taylor TN, Al Mohajer M
Cureus. 2022 Sep; 14(9):e29194.
PMID: 36258990.


The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is a common cause of infectious hepatitis worldwide. In adults, clinical manifestations typically involve fever, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, abdominal pain, and jaundice, although rarer manifestations may be observed. Acute hepatitis A infection is detected via anti-HAV IgM antibodies, which are present in almost all patients at symptom onset. In this case, we present a patient who not only tested negative for acute HAV infection at symptom onset, but also presented with uncommon, extrahepatic manifestations including maculopapular skin rash and polyarthralgia. Wariness of such a presentation can facilitate the timely diagnosis of atypical cases of HAV infection. We report the case of a 51-year-old man who presented with fever, abdominal pain, headaches, and diarrhea for one week with elevated liver enzymes and leukocytosis. Workup consisting of viral hepatitis panels, various infectious studies, and rheumatologic antibody titers did not initially reveal an etiology for the patient's presentation. Computed tomography (CT) abdomen and pelvis, abdominal ultrasound, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), and hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan did not reveal acute pathology. The patient's symptoms worsened over the following days, and he additionally developed bilateral wrist pain, digital arthralgias, paraspinal back pain, diffuse muscular weakness, and a pruritic maculopapular rash affecting the flanks and extremities. Eventually, viral hepatitis studies were repeated which revealed elevated levels of anti-HAV IgM antibodies, indicating acute hepatitis A infection. The patient was treated supportively while hospitalized with subsequent improvement of symptoms and lab abnormalities. Since discharge, the patient had not experienced persistent sequelae of the disease. This case of acute viral hepatitis A infection is notable for two reasons: (1) the patient experienced uncommon, delayed, extrahepatic manifestations of disease, and (2) the initial viral hepatitis studies revealed undetectable anti-HAV IgM levels despite having experienced symptoms of illness for several days. This case suggests that repeat viral hepatitis testing may be warranted in patients who continue to experience manifestations of the infection after initially testing negative. It also emphasizes the importance of recognizing potential atypical manifestations of acute hepatitis A infection.