Cases of acute hepatitis in children, the WHO makes three hypotheses

HEALTH – Despite ongoing scientific research, the mystery remains. Growing concerns about a form of acute hepatitis affecting children in several countries continue.

On April 21, the WHO counted no fewer than 169 cases spread across 11 European countries and the United States. This form of hepatitis of unknown origin affects children between the ages of one month and 16 years. While most cases were reported in the UK (114), two cases were identified in France.

Currently, the preferred scientific lead is that of adenoviruses. There are more than 50 immunologically distinct types of adenoviruses that are usually responsible for infections of the lungs and airways that can cause the common cold and, in some cases, pneumonia.

However, adenovirus infection “does not fully explain the severity of the clinical picture,” the WHO states, leaving the door open to at least one other underlying origin. In its most recent report on the course of this epidemic, the WHO put forward three hypotheses to try to explain the emergence of this new form of hepatitis.

New adenovirus and consequences of Covid-19

According to the World Health Organization, “factors such as increased susceptibility in young children due to lower circulating adenovirus levels during the Covid-19 pandemic, the potential emergence of a new adenovirus, and co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 require further investigation.”

In summary, a still unknown adenovirus could be the cause of this epidemic. This respiratory virus causes vomiting, cold symptoms, or conjunctivitis, but rarely hepatitis. It could therefore be a new variant of the adenovirus, as Scottish researchers explain in the journal Science: “A variant with a marked clinical syndrome or a commonly circulating variant that affects young children more severely”.

The passage of Covid-19 could also have deteriorated children’s immune systems and favored the occurrence of this hepatitis. After delivery, children would have been more vulnerable to adenoviruses because they had far less exposure during this unprecedented time.

Even the trace of co-infection cannot be ruled out, as shown by the number of tests carried out on children affected by this new form of hepatitis. In fact, 74 of the 169 children were positive for the adenovirus. Covid-19 was detected in 20 of those tested. “In addition, 19 were detected with co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus,” the WHO points out in this report.

However, the tracking of side effects due to vaccines against Covid-19 has not yet been proven. “The vast majority of affected children did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” says the UN agency.

WHO advice

“It is very likely that more cases will be discovered before the cause can be confirmed and more specific control and prevention measures can be implemented,” also notes the WHO, which says it is working closely with the UK on this epidemic.

For the specialized body, “the priority is to identify the cause of these cases in order to further refine control and prevention measures. Common preventive measures against adenovirus and other common infections include regular hand washing and respiratory hygiene.”

WHO also recommends testing blood, serum, urine, stool and respiratory samples, and liver biopsy samples (if available) to refine ongoing investigations.

However, no travel and trade restrictions with the UK or other countries where cases have been identified appear to be necessary at this time. In addition to the 114 identified cases in children in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there are so far 13 cases in Spain, 12 in Israel, 9 in the United States, 6 in Denmark, less than 5 in Ireland, 4 in the Netherlands and Italy, 2 in France and Norway and one case in Romania and Belgium.

See also on The HuffPost: The war in Ukraine and its dire consequences for children’s health

Leave a Comment