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Front. Med. | doi: 10.3389/fmed.2019.00183

Biobanking for Viral Hepatitis Research

 Erwin Ho1, 2*,  Stijn Vanhees2,  Sofie Goethals3,  Elke Smits3, Manon Huizing3,  Sven Francque1, 2,  Benedicte Y. De Winter2,  Peter Michielsen1, 2 and Thomas Vanwolleghem1, 2, 4
  • 1Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium
  • 2Laboratory of Paediatrics and Experimental Medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • 3Biobank Antwerp, Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium
  • 4Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus Medical Center, Netherlands


Viral hepatitis is a worldwide, important health issue. The optimal management of viral hepatitis infections faces numerous challenges. In this paper, we describe how biobanking of biological samples derived from viral hepatitis patients collected both in-hospital and during community outreach screenings provides a unique collection of samples.

Materials and Methods

All samples and materials were provided with a study code within the SLIMS system Study protocols and an informed consent form were approved by the Antwerp University Hospital/University of Antwerp Ethical Committee. Systematic biobanking was initiated in October 2014. Collected sample types include: 1) serum and plasma of all newly diagnosed HBV, HCV, HDV and HEV positive patients; 2) left-over serum and plasma samples from all PCR analyses for HBV, HCV and HEV performed in the context of routine clinical care; 3) left-over liver tissue not needed for routine histological diagnosis after liver biopsy; and 4) additional virus-specific, appropriate sample types using a scientific rationale-based approach.

A community outreach screening program was performed in three major Belgian cities. Serum, EDTA, Tempus Blood RNA and BD Vacutainer CPT were collected. CPT tubes were centrifuged on-site and mononuclear cells collected within 24 hours.


Concerning community screening: 298 individuals supplied all 4 sample types. Samples were stored at -150°C and were logged in the biobank SLIMS database. Samples were used for HBV-related immunological and biomarker

DNA isolated from plasma samples derived from chronic HBV patients was used to investigate Single Nucleotide Polymorphism rs 1790008. Serum samples collected from chronic hepatitis C patients were used to assess the efficacy of HCV treatment. Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMC) isolated from chronic HBV patients and healthy controls were used for different immunological study purposes. Virus isolated from biobanked stool of a chronic hepatitis E patient was used to establish a mouse model for Hepatitis E infections, allowing further HEV virology studies.


The establishment of a biobank with samples collected both in-hospital and during community-outreach screening resulted in a unique, continuously expanding collection of biological samples which provides an excellent platform for prompt answers to clinically and translational relevant research questions.

Keywords: Viral Hepatitis, SLiMs, Biobank, screening, immunology

Received: 13 May 2019; Accepted: 29 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Laurent G. Dollé, Biothèque wallonie bruxelles, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Helmuth Haslacher, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
Carla Osiowy, National Microbiology Laboratory, Canada  

Copyright: © 2019 Ho, Vanhees, Goethals, Smits, Huizing, Francque, De Winter, Michielsen and Vanwolleghem. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Erwin Ho, Antwerp University Hospital, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Antwerp, Belgium,