Scientists at the National University of Colombia warned of the risk of an outbreak of hepatitis E, a new variant in this country, transmitted via fecal matter and pig livers. So far, only one case has been detected, but experts urged caution to prevent a possible epidemic, due to the lack of proper hygiene in swine production systems.

The director of the University Center research group on Biodiversity and Molecular Genetics, Alberto Lopez, revealed that, after evaluating the top five hog slaughter plants in the region, the presence of antibodies to hepatitis E were detected.

That suggests, he said, that the pigs were infected and their bodies generated special proteins to stop the virus.

Hepatitis type E manifests with severe icterus (yellowing of the skin), more intense than previously known variants, and attacks adults between 15 and 40 years old most forcefully. Its incidence is more serious in pregnant women.

The disease, for which there is no specific treatment, is treated by prescribed, a low fat diet and constant monitoring for contagion. It usually lasts up to four weeks, if no other complications arise, doctors said.

In Colombia there is a high consumption of pork, which has largely supplanted beef, suspected to have carcinogenic effects.