Mysterious hepatitis affects 170 children in 12 countries – 25/04/2022 – Balance and Health

The cases of acute hepatitis in children, detected in 12 countries, mainly European, generate questions and also fear of a new epidemic. However, the origin of this severe liver inflammation remains unknown.

It all started in the United Kingdom, which has the highest number of notifications (114). Then, cases were revealed in Spain (13); in Denmark (six); in Ireland (less than five); in the Netherlands (four); in Italy (four); in France (two); in Norway (two); in Romania (one) and Belgium (one), according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

Outside Europe, Israel (12 cases) and the United States (at least nine) join the list.

Affected children are aged 1 month to 16 years. Most are under ten years old—none had any other illnesses. There was a death.

“Investigations are continuing in countries where there are cases. So far, the current cause of hepatitis is unknown,” according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

At the moment, an infectious cause seems the most likely, but no common link to contaminated or toxic food that could be identified has been established.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, as a reaction to a virus, to toxics (poisons, drugs, etc.) or to autoimmune or genetic diseases. Its evolution is usually benign and its main symptoms — fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain — resolve quickly or leave few sequelae. Sometimes, more rarely, they can cause kidney failure.

But “the increasing number of children affected by sudden hepatitis is unusual and worrying”, told the British Science Media Center Zania Stamakati, from the center for research on the liver and gastrointestinal system at the University of Birmingham.

Among the possible clues, the adenovirus was detected in at least 74 children, of which 18 were the so-called “type 41”.

Several countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands, have reported an increasing circulation of these adenoviruses. Its role in the development of the mysterious hepatitis, however, is unclear.

The possibility of a relationship with Covid-19, which is still in circulation, is also among the hypotheses. The coronavirus was detected in 20 of the children. Another 19 had a co-infection of Covid and adenovirus.

However, “if this hepatitis is being caused by Covid-19, it would be very surprising that they were not much more numerous given the strong circulation of Sars-Cov2”, says Graham Cooke, an infectious diseases specialist at Imperial College London, to Science Media. Center.

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