Acute hepatitis of unknown origin affecting children has already been detected in 12 EU countries, as well as in Japan, Israel and Canada. In total, almost 200 cases of this disease have already been identified in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one child died, 17 children required a liver transplant.
Children from 1 month to 16 years old get sick with mysterious hepatitis, but more often – children under 5 years old.
The disease is interesting because scientists have not yet been able to identify the cause of its development: laboratory tests have excluded hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D and E) from patients. Ordinary causes that could cause acute hepatitis were also excluded. Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus and adenovirus have been found in some children, but these viruses are unlikely to be associated with hepatitis.
International travel or contacts with other countries have also not been identified as possible contributors to infection, according to the WHO.
Some experts from Scotland have put forward a hypothesis according to which adenovirus in tandem with coronavirus may thus affect the liver of children. However, at the moment there is no confirmation of this hypothesis. Moreover, co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus was found in only 19 patients.
British specialists from the Sanitary and Epidemiological Administration believe that due to insufficient exposure of children to the usual adenovirus during the pandemic, in conditions of self-isolation and social distance, acute hepatitis could simply become more severe.
According to WHO, the clinical syndrome among the identified cases is acute hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) with a markedly elevated level of liver enzymes. In many cases, young patients have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. All these signs precede the development of severe acute hepatitis. An increase in the level of liver enzymes (aspartate aminotransferase or alanine aminotransferase above 500 IU / l) and jaundice were also recorded. There was no fever in most cases.
What will happen next?
According to many experts, if the mysterious hepatitis does turn out to be of viral origin, this will be the worst case scenario, since the virus can spread quite quickly around the world and cause serious problems in many countries, especially in those where healthcare is not very accessible. population.
Commenting on the situation to the CNBC channel, Amy Edwards, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Case University Medical Institute of the Western Reserve Region (USA), noted that it is not yet possible to say how serious or dangerous this outbreak of acute hepatitis is. According to her, everything will depend on how the disease behaves in the coming months. If it turns out that the cause of the disease is a serious form of adenovirus that affects the liver in children, this will be a serious cause for concern, since adenoviruses are everywhere and they are not seasonal. However, there are still quite a few cases of the disease, and it is not worth making hasty conclusions.