An outbreak of mysterious acute childhood hepatitis, especially in European countries and the United States, has sparked a new alert in the scientific community. One child died and 17 needed liver transplants, according to data from the WHO (World Health Organization). The cause is still unknown, but doctors have identified a supposed relationship with adenovirus 41.
Adenovirus was not found in some tests, but not all children were tested. experts heard by Live well explain that the association is rare, because this type of virus is not a common cause of hepatitis. “When there is hepatitis, the adenovirus is not considered”, explains infectologist Celso Granato, clinical director of Grupo Fleury. The disease is usually caused by viruses of types A, B, C, D, or E.
On Saturday (23), the WHO issued an alert for the disease of unknown cause. So far, 200 cases have been reported in 14 countries – the majority in the UK (114). “It’s an intense outbreak of the severe form, but we don’t know how many people have little symptomatic form, because in outbreaks the tendency is to see serious things. And then we only see the tip of the iceberg”, says Granato.
What is adenovirus 41 and how does it work in the body?
There are over 50 types of adenoviruses, a family of viruses. They are organized into species, with nomenclatures between A and G. In the case of adenovirus 41-F, it is commonly associated with respiratory infections, as is 40.
“It is a virus that normally enters through the respiratory tract, penetrates the tissues causing inflammation, and in more severe cases it can lead to pulmonary involvement”, describes infectologist Raquel Stucchi, from Unicamp (State University of Campinas).
Children, however, may have different symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Complications of infection by the virus, when recorded, occur on a larger scale in premature and immunosuppressed children.
Is it related to mysterious hepatitis?
Initial information still needs to be analyzed. According to infectologist Celso Granato, it is possible that “in weeks” researchers will identify the real cause of the disease. “We see the WHO investing in rapid investigation because, if the cause is not clarified, it is difficult to organize preventive measures”, he says.
It is important to remember that the WHO has already highlighted that the cases are not related to the covid-19 vaccine. In Israel, the head of the pediatric unit Shaare Zedek Medical Center said that most children with hepatitis cases had been infected with the new coronavirus at some point in the past. Tests showed no adenovirus infection, the doctor told the website of the US magazine Wired.
What is Mysterious Hepatitis?
According to the WHO, the identified cases had acute hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), “with markedly elevated liver enzymes”.
“Many cases manifested gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting prior to presentation with severe acute hepatitis and increased levels of liver enzymes—aspartate transaminase (AST) or alanine aminotransaminase (ALT) above 500 IU/L—and jaundice ( yellowing of the skin/eyes).” Most cases did not have fever.
*with information from a report published on 04/25/22